One consistent way I see medical travelers get into trouble is by not asking the right questions (and enough questions!) about an assignment they are offered and by not getting important issues clarified in writing in their contracts. Unfortunately many travelers accept the general overview of a travel job given them by a recruiter, ask a few questions of their own of the recruiter and hospital representative, and then leave it at that. All I can say to that approach is: Big mistake!
Every assignment you accept will be in a different town, involve protocols and procedures unique to each individual hospital, and require you to adjust quickly to new staff members and physicians. never assume that your current travel position is indicative of what will happen at your next assignment even if you are working with the same travel agency. Each travel job must be viewed as a completely separate negotiated contract.
Most of the complaints I hear from travelers could have been avoided if they had asked more details about the job in advance AND gotten critical agreements in writing. For example, if you are told you will be working in a specific type of unit or specialty during your stay, you may find that after you arrive you are asked to float to other areas if you have not protected yourself from that requirement in your contract. To just assume that the unit you interview for is the only unit or area you will be asked to work is not always a safe assumption. You will need to clarify in advance, in writing, what units you are willing to work and float to (if you are) and where you are not. Otherwise, once you arrive at your assignment you will be legally bound to work other areas if the hospital deems it necessary.
Similarly, getting clarity in advance about what shifts, hours, overtime or call that is expected of you is of the utmost importance. Unless everything is settled in writing prior to your arrival on the job site, you could find yourself being asked to work a different shift (among other considerations) without any legal recourse to refuse. You could even be sent home early without full pay on a particular day that the hospital might be over staffed (after all, travelers cost them more money!) if you have not stipulated in your contract that you will be paid in full should that happen.
Not only will you need to clarify all aspects of your job assignment in your contract but you will also need to clarify every detail of your benefit package. I’ve run into many travelers that became outraged about benefits they were promised verbally that never materialized. Sometimes it is just a misunderstanding and not meant to deny you something on purpose, but denied you will be if it’s not in your contract. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how comfortable you feel with your travel recruiter or how much you trust him/her, business is business and a solid contract is your only protection.
Asking the right questions and clarifying everything in advance in writing is crucial to assuring you a profitable and enjoyable medical travel career.