Hospitals, imaging labs and outpatient centers depend on traveling radiologic technologists to service a growing number of patients (thanks, Baby Boomers!) who require X-rays, CAT scans, ultrasounds, MRIs and other diagnostic procedures. Traveling medical imaging techs have been known to earn a handsome annual salary (like the traveling nurse salary you’ve probably heard about), so are you ready to get in on the adventure (and the cash)? Here are a few things you need to know to prepare for your first travel assignment.
1. Get organized
One of the first steps to becoming a traveler is making sure you have an updated license, health information and immunization records. You’ll need a professional resume that showcases your skills and includes a list of references and current telephone numbers. Your recruiter can help guide you through this process, and even sharpen up your resume and provide interview tips.
2. Pursue assignments with an open mind
Traveling for a living gives you more control over your career than a permanent placement job. The choices are almost endless. You get to see different regions of the country, all while working and learning in new ways. You get to decide how much or how little you want to work. Typical assignment length is 13 weeks, which can be extended. You can take a month off between assignments, or finish one assignment on Friday and start the next on Monday. Some of your assignment options may challenge you on the clinical front, while others will exhilarate you on the adventure and location front. It’s up to you!
3. Verify pay rates and other details with your recruiter.
Once you’ve secured a job offer, knowing what your take-home pay will be is crucial. Things like benefits, bonuses, and housing stipend should all be taken into account when calculating your weekly paycheck. Your recruiter can talk you through the different health plan options, bonus pay outs and use their travel nurse housing experience to get you relocated.
4. Read your contract
Don’t like surprises? Then this one’s important. Contracts can vary assignment to assignment, so it’s important you have a thorough understanding before you sign. Things to look for include guaranteed hours, agreed-upon pay rate and floating policies at the facility. This document will hold you to certain standards and demand certain actions on your part, so read all of it. Don’t understand something? Ask your recruiter without hesitation.
5. Address housing
There’s many options for coordinating your housing, but the most common are stipends, arranging housing on your own, or company-provided housing (most common). Whatever method you choose, make sure to look up information on the surrounding neighborhood and even map the route you will take to work. Confirm details on things like cable provider, wifi, included furnishings, etc.
6. Decide how you will travel to your assignment
If you plan to fly, you will want to check on public transportation to and from work, or long-term car rental. If you plan to drive, determine your route with a GPS or smart phone app – and if you’ve got extra time to kill, make note of some sight-seeing spots to check out on your way. Pack a road atlas in case your wireless network fails somewhere along the way. And it’s never been a better time to invest in roadside assistance like AAA.
7. Pack smart
There will probably be more things you regret bringing on an assignment than things you regret not bringing. Think about what you’ll need to last one week – the time it will take you to get your bearings and find a laundry service – and add on from there. You’ll be packing and unpacking by yourself, so bring a laptop instead of a TV. Pack clothes you can “dress up” or “dress down” as needed. Buy the necessities when you get there (toothpaste, cleaning supplies, trash bags, groceries).
8. Arrive early for your assignment
Instead of showing up the day before your start date, plan to arrive with enough of time settle into your living space, time your commute, shop for essentials and other details before your first shift. Save all of your receipts while traveling for potential reimbursement and for tax purposes. Make arrangements to visit the facility before your start date and even set up a tour.
9. Make friends with your co-workers
One of the easiest ways to settle in to your travel nursing assignment is to get to know the doctors, nurses and technicians you’ll work with. Bringing treats to your new team, sparking conversation by asking about things to do in the area, or inviting someone to coffee after work are great ways to break the ice. While you can’t expect to become best friends with everyone you work with, establishing a mutual respect early on will make things much easier. Just like you would on a permanent job, treat each and every travel assignment as though it’s the most important job of your career. This enables you to make a difference to patients and staff members wherever you go.
10. Make the most of your free time.
Thirteen weeks may seem like a long time, but you’ll find that it flies by. If you’re not careful, all of the sight-seeing you planned might fall by the wayside. Make a bucket list for each assignment full of the things you want to do while in that location, and make immediate plans to go on adventures!
11. Be in touch with your recruiter frequently
Things happen, and during the course of your assignment your recruiter will be on the front lines with you when you encounter any issues. They should be the first to know about issues with your paycheck, housing or schedule. They will also arrange your next assignment, or help you extend your contract at your current facility (their job never ends, so stay in touch!).