The COVID-19 pandemic has affected jobs in every sector of the economy. While initially it seemed that healthcare jobs would likely be among the least affected, even healthcare professionals have found their jobs affected.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers has varied based on the fluctuations of needs. In some areas, lockdowns closed outpatient procedures and significantly reduced patient volumes. In other areas, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases has led to a spike in patient volumes that has been difficult for healthcare organizations to accommodate.
As patient volumes and organization-specific needs change, healthcare workers around the country have experienced changes from being furloughed or laid off to having to work extra, mandatory shifts. As needs change, healthcare workers have had to accommodate these changes and have experienced disruptions to their normal work hours and pay.
Travel Healthcare Jobs
One potential strategy that some have pursued during the pandemic is to work in a travel job. Travel jobs typically involve a short-term work assignment in an area other than where the healthcare worker lives. These assignments may vary in length but are typically about three months.
To meet the changes in demand for healthcare workers, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is temporarily allowing healthcare workers to practice across state lines in areas where they are not licensed, as long as they have the needed licensure in another state. This has made travel jobs much more flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic than has previously been the case.
Most travel jobs are temporary contracts that are obtained through a travel agency. Nursing has traditionally been the area of healthcare that has the greatest number of travel jobs available, due both to the need for nurses and to the ease of obtaining interstate licensure, compared to mid-level providers and physicians.
Benefits of Travel Jobs
There are several benefits to travel jobs that make pursuing them more appealing to healthcare workers.
One of the greatest benefits of travel jobs is the increased ability to make a greater income. Travel jobs pay more in general for healthcare workers than traditional jobs because they are filling a specific need. Especially in areas that have a very high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pay may be significantly higher than normal wages. For example, in New York City during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, RNs were able to make over $5,000 a week – an amount that is slightly more than the average monthly wage of a typical RN.
Travel jobs have several unique perks. Paid travel, paid accommodations, and tax benefits are often a part of travel assignments. Travel agencies also often offer day one health insurance and other benefits that are comparable to most healthcare employers.
Traveling to COVID-19 epicenters allows healthcare professionals the opportunity to gain a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience in caring for COVID-19 infected patients at a pandemic epicenter. This clinical experience can be very valuable and will likely enhance an individual’s ability as a healthcare professional.
Considerations for Travel Jobs
While there are some distinct benefits of travel healthcare jobs, there are some potential downsides that should be considered.
Risk of Infection
Because of the relatively uncontrolled clinical environments and global supply shortages that have occurred from the pandemic and are affecting disease epicenters, there is a greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The increased number of patients further increases this risk. Travel agencies may have you sign a waiver, releasing them and the clinical site from liability and indicating that you understand potential supply issues and possible risks of contracting COVID-19. These risks should be taken into consideration before traveling to a disease epicenter.
While travel for healthcare personnel has been widely accommodated, traveling healthcare workers may not have the chance to see the sights or experience the area they will be in like they would have during a normal situation. This can lead to a travel assignment primarily being either working or living in a lockdown environment.
Weighing the Risks and Benefits
There are both significant benefits and significant risks with taking travel healthcare jobs, especially so in the midst of a pandemic, and healthcare professionals should weigh these risk before deciding if a travel job is right for them.