Pros and cons of travel therapy

Learn travel healthcare like a from fellow travelers (unbiased and honest)

It’s so amazing being a travel therapist. If you have any doubt just check Instagram hashtags #travelptlife #travelslplife or #travelotlife. The pictures alone would make anyone want to put in their notice and hit the road! But alas, we are here to make sure you are empowered in your knowledge and that means telling you the ups and the downs of picking this life.

If I were to do it all over again, would I be a traveler? YES! But did I end up in a moldy Airbnb? Have awkward assignments with terrible management? Get tired and lonely being the new girl sometimes? YES! While I think there are more upsides to being a travel therapist than down, we can’t forget that for every amazing thing that comes with travel, there are some challenges and expectations we choose to take on, too. Let’s talk about what it really means to be a travel therapist: the good, the bad, and everything in between.

The pros of travel therapy life:

  1. Travel therapist salary: Travel therapists typically earn more than permanent staff in large part because of tax-free money options.
  2. Living locally and awesome adventures on your days off: You can do as the locals do! Go to local festivals or the best family-owned restaurant in town. I always try to find the best coffee in town as my very first adventure ☕️. One time I stumbled upon a local Christmas event in Cambria, CA. It was called the Christmas Market and it had 2 million Christmas lights (not an exaggeration!) to walk through.
  3. You get comfortable with being uncomfortable: As a travel therapist, there is no shortage of opportunities to experience self-growth and development. You will constantly be learning about new clinical systems, new ways of life, what you like and don’t like. You will be challenged on the regular. It makes you and a stronger and more adaptable person. Those are some pretty awesome perks.
  4. Say goodbye to office politics: A short term contract means there isn’t enough time for you to get stuck in drama at work. Say no to gossip. Just don’t do it. Be that awesome traveler who everyone likes and who doesn’t get bogged down with drama that the perm staff might be in.
  5. Flexibility of time off: If you want to save up money to travel around Bali for a month, then you can do it! Or if you want to take 2 weeks off between your contracts just because, then go right ahead. No need to worry about getting a month of vacation approved. After you finish a contract, you don’t owe time to anyone but yourself! Not the hospital, not the staffing agency. You are free to live a schedule of intention and true control of work/life balance!
  6. Clinical growth: Experiencing so many ways different hospital systems and therapists treat around the country is an eye-opening experience. There is about a 110% chance you will grow as a clinician.
  7. Decreased burn out: Burn out is a real thing. Getting increased time off, fewer politics, and a change of scenery can help loads with feeling burnt out as a travel therapist.

The cons of travel therapy life:

  1. You will have to “hit the ground running” on assignments: You’ll be expected to be clinically competent right away. This is where those 2 years of experience you have to have to start traveling will come in handy. 😊
  2. No paid time off or sick days as a travel therapist: We only get paid for the hours we work. When I first learned about this, I was not thrilled. But it’s what we sign up for as contractors and it is fair. And I also realized, we typically make more money. With a bit of planning, I’d be able to save up a financial nest egg to cover me during time off. I would rather make more while I’m working, than less just in case I got sick one day.
  3. Finding short-term housing: While some companies offer to find you housing, that is the fastest way to make less money than you could. Find your own housing. But I will raise my hand high and admit, It might be the worst part of this lifestyle.
  4. Contracts can get canceled: The travel therapist lifestyle can be unpredictable. You could be 1,200 miles into your trip and already have signed a lease (ahem, try not to sign leases longer than 30 days at a time) …then the worst happens. The contract gets canceled. And we have no control over this and neither do our recruiters. The facilities and hospitals hold all the power on this one. Be ready to roll with it. (Also, make sure you have a two-week or four-week notice in your contract).
  5. Health insurance gaps: Depending on your staffing agency, there could an option for day one health insurance. This means, on your first day of work, you are covered. But it may mean as soon as your last day passes, you’re no longer covered. Or there are some that start the first of the month after you begin work. Or some that start within 28 days of your contract after the first month (what the heck!) …anyway, see what I mean? You easily could have gaps in coverage. Savvy travelers work with 3 companies and want to be able to easily switch between them. Getting your own insurance is a good move.
  6. Navigating recruiters and companies: Recruiters are salespeople. Many are friendly and nice and awesome humans. But almost all of them are working for commission checks and are incentivized to talk us into jobs or pay us less than they could. Knowing who to trust is hard! And it could cost you thousands of dollars a month if you have a bad recruiter who is underpaying you (in order to get their own check higher). You must have 3 recruiters you can trust. Use Nomadicare. We have an intense 3-hour interview that recruiters go through to get approved to get matched to you. And on top of that, we know which recruiters have access to jobs in which locations. We will match you to 2 or 3 recruiters that are truly honest, kind, and are more likely to have jobs where you want to go! It’s free.

You are not obligated to use the recruiters we match you with. But oh-my-goodness we are good at this and it will save you so much time!

These are all things to carefully weigh as you decide to take on life as a travel therapist. There are lots of players at hand, so it’s a lot to manage. But high risk…you guessed it! It means high reward. The freedom and discovery of travel is worth it for some, but it’s not the life for everyone.

Is travel therapy right for you?

How adaptable are you? Each hospital will be different and will have different resources. You have to do things their way, not your way. (Even if you are so sure your way is better).

Are you open-minded? You will be exposed to different ways of doing things, you will meet people and work with people from different backgrounds, you will live in completely different places. Keeping an open mind and eager to learn will help you be a successful travel therapist.

How confident are you? There will be times, probably a lot of times, that you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ll feel super uncomfortable, but that’s ok. The question is, are you confident enough to do the action while feeling uncomfortable? Are you confident enough to ask people you met yesterday where to find something or how to do something?

How are your clinical skills? There isn’t a lot of time for the hospital or other staff to teach you. Travel therapy is not here to mentor you. Having solid clinical skills is crucial. This brings me to my next question…

Are you self-motivated to learn? Since there isn’t a lot of time dedicated to your professional development, you will oftentimes have to take that into your own hands.

Do you practice daily gratitude? Some days will be harder than others. Finding the good in those challenging situations may be just what gets you through that day or that contract. Plus, we should all find something to be thankful for every day. Even if it’s just coffee we drank this morning or the wine you had after work. Daily gratitude (and coffee and wine 😉) is good for the soul!

Cheers to the good with the bad,

xo Laura

Keep learning, empowered travelers 💪

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Additional Reimbursements

Did your offer come with something extra that would cost the staffing agency money? This may include a CEU class, scrubs, or sign on bonuses. Don’t worry if this section is blank, most offers don’t have extra reimbursements.

Travel Reimbursements

This is tax-free money that is paid to you to help you pay for the expense of traveling to your assignment. Many staffing agencies pay for this per mile up to a certain amount. They will usually pay this on your first paycheck or split between your first paycheck and last. If you are traveling a short distance this could be a very small amount.

Also, it’s becoming more popular for an agency to not offer this at all. It’s really not a big deal though. If you don’t get travel reimbursement money you should make a bit more in your weekly pay so many times it all equals out.

Weekly Housing Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code.

The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Meal Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code. The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Insurance Costs

Medical insurance can impact your final paycheck a lot since it will deduct pay from your check each week. If you are taking the company health insurance, you are going to want to know up front about how much this will cost you per week.

The average is around $30 a week but some companies charge as much as $100 a week to their travelers and some offer some health insurance options for free. If you are not taking their insurance just set this to zero.

Hours per week

For this calculation, put the hours per week you are expecting to work. And then feel free to run it again with the hours you are guaranteed. Many times contracts have guaranteed hours that are lower than the expected hours.

Guaranteed hours means if the facility doesn’t need you to come in, you will still get paid as long as it was their choice and not yours to not work.

Also, find out if this contract has any “call off shifts” where the hospital can call you off without pay a certain number of times per contract. This is common and not a deal breaker but just good to know!

Length of assignment

In travel nurses and allied health the most common length of a travel assignment is 13 weeks. If you are looking for a contract shorter or longer just ask! Sometimes facilities or hospitals who hire you will be flexible.

Taxable rate per hour

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city.

If you do not have a tax home all of your pay will be taxed and put in this field.

Good to know: Your taxable base pay is the only part of your paycheck that is legally considered income. The average taxable base pay is $20 but you might get offers higher or lower than this. It’s the only part of your paycheck that is taxed

Nomadicare’s purpose is to empower. It’s the lifeblood that flows through every single thing we create. We are here to make sure every traveler has all the transparent knowledge they need to make empowered decisions. We want you to feel confident so you can live your dream!

Nomadicare is partnered with dozens of companies and each of those companies have access to different settings, locations, and exclusive contracts. We know their benefit options and who have jobs in each location. We will match you to the best recruiters for you and your goals. Every single recruiter has been vetted and comes with the Nomadicare guarantee.
You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait and switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend. When you request an interview, we’ll instantly match you with the vetted recruiter who posted that job.
Typically 0-3 months before you are ready to start your next assignment is best. A short quiz will give us a picture of who you are, and what you are looking for. After the quiz we’ll have everything we need to match you with the perfect recruirer for your travel goals
If you know where you want to go and you’re ready to travel, Instant Matching is perfect for you. You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait-and-switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend.
We highly recommended being ready! Having all of your documents and being super responsive are key. Speed is the biggest factor in getting the job you want. We recommend using a free service like Kamana, which you can share your online resume, credentials, and licenses with a single link to any of our vetted recruiters when requesting an interview.
Graph Café, Chiang Mai, Thailand 🥇