Who is the Traveler: Myth vs. Reality

Who is the Traveler: Myth vs. Reality

Who is the Traveler: Myth vs. Reality
Provided by NATHO Member, The Delta Companies


Travelers are fully qualified providers working with a flexible schedule, throughout various locations. A typical assignment for a traveler averages 13 weeks, depending on the need of the facility served. According to data from this quarter’s The Standard, the traveler’s lifestyle appeals most to providers with fewer than five years experience, or over 10 years experience. Typically, these age brackets include new graduates eager to absorb knowledge, and seasoned providers willing to spread their expertise.

But who is the traveler, really? What motivates these individuals to explore a traveling position or take on a new facility? For many organization representatives, these questions remain unanswered or leave room for misconceptions and false assumptions about the lifestyle of the traveler. In order to better understand the role, and perhaps determine if your facility has the need for such a provider, it is important to discuss and expunge common myths associated with healthcare travelers.

Myth 1: Providers travel because they cannot work full-time

This statement is simply untrue. Rather, providers choose to travel to accommodate their lifestyle. Motivation for this choice could be self-serving— some travelers want to see the country and explore new territory while maintaining a steady income. After wrapping up an assignment in the northeast, a provider may try heading south to explore the culture and customs of the southwest. Others are inspired by the fundamental appeal of helping others. Knowing that a particular facility is in need and can benefit from their expertise draws these travelers from region to region. One provider explained that working as a traveler allows him to structure his assignment schedules with time off during summer, which he dedicates to mission trips with his church. Working in a full-time position would not likely provide this flexibility.

Myth 2: Travelers cannot provide consistent care

Good travelers are eager to learn and have a zeal for new experiences. As a provider moves across different facilities, he or she can learn new processes and techniques from experts in each area. While open to guidance, travelers are also willing to share their knowledge. New techniques can be passed on to providers in the next facility at which the traveler takes an assignment.

Myth 3: A traveler will not connect with my facility or community

In addition to sharing knowledge, good travelers typically exude a passion for their job, which can be infectious to other providers. Although an assignment is temporary, travelers are still eager to connect with other employees and form lasting professional relationships. Often, travelers on assignment are also very engaged with community activities. In a small town in Virginia, one traveler took a 6-month position working with a facility dedicated to assisting with children with disabilities. During her assignment, the traveler helped develop and promote a city basketball team for her patients. Within her short assignment, this provider took great strides in drawing a community together.

Myth 4: Travelers cost too much

Travelers are employed by staffing agencies, and therefore do require a fee for placement costs. However, the level of availability a traveler presents offsets this expense. Typically, facilities need travelers to fill an immediate position— for instance, filling in for another provider who is on maternity leave.  If this role is left open, patient flow will suffer causing a decline in the facility’s revenue. Placing a traveler in a needed position can actually save a facility time and money by maintaining a regular patient load. Additionally, travelers are ready to being work from their first day of arrival. By resourcing a staffing agency, all credentialing requirements, licensing, housing arrangements, travel expenses, and administrative prerequisites are the responsibility of the recruitment firm, not the hiring organization.

Myth 5: My facility has to be located near a buzzing attraction to appeal to good travelers

Travelers thrive on new experiences and are attracted to assignments that fit to their needs. A recruiting agent holds the responsibility of matching these needs with those of the hiring organization. For travelers who value providing quality care to patients in need, proximity to a thriving city or exotic destination is not necessarily a priority. Instead, these providers are motivated by the chance to build relationships, plan their schedule, and transfer knowledge through new experiences. 

It is important for facility representatives to identify with the traveler in order to fully understand their options during the recruitment process. Recruiters that understand the needs of both temporary and permanent providers have the best advantage toward connecting a quality provider to an organization in need.