What You Need to Know to Become a Travel Social Worker
If you're looking for a way to engage and advocate for patients while positively impacting providers and hospitals, you should contemplate becoming a travel social worker.
Typically falling under the case management umbrella, travel social work jobs usually assist with patients’ discharge planning, predominantly in the acute care hospital setting. For example, travel social workers may obtain referrals to transfer patients to other facilities, set up durable medical equipment, coordinate home services, and set appointments and prescriptions. There are also assignments in which a clinical social worker may perform therapy, crisis intervention, and psychosocial assessments.
4 Things to Know about Travel Social Work Jobs
1. Assignment locations
According to Mara L., a recruiter for AMN Healthcare’s Revenue Cycle Solutions case management and utilization review (CMUR) registry, she places travel social workers in all 50 states, but availability for each region fluctuates. One of the most popular travel destinations is California, where travelers enjoy basking in sun-soaked settings or exploring the state's wonderous outdoor activities. Other popular destinations for assignments include Maryland, Georgia, and Washington, DC.
2. Requirements and qualifications
At the bare minimum, social workers need their master's degree and at least two years of acute hospital case management experience before becoming a traveler.
Some organizations will hire a travel social worker without a license, but having a license opens you up to more jobs and higher pay. A recruiter can help social workers navigate through the minutia of varying requirements in different states.
"Social worker jobs that open up and don't need a license can go quickly," Mara said. "But I always recommend to travelers to get licenses in other states they're interested in traveling to because it makes it easier for them to prepare to get those jobs."
Having a certification in case management, either an ACM from the American Case Management Association (ACMA) or a CCM from the Case Management Society of America (CMSA), can also make you a better candidate for assignments, according to Mara.
3. Career and personal benefits
One benefit of travel social work is that is helps diversify your work experiences.
"If social workers stay in the same job locally at home for five or six years, they're probably not going to experience much more outside that," Mara said. "But going to a bunch of different locations—getting to see how different hospitals are run and to learn the resources of that place, the way their processes are and the different hospital systems used—helps you become a better social worker."
Travel assignments also allow you to explore new places, try new things and meet new people—which can expand both your social and your professional networks.
4. Employee benefits
Finally, measuring the level of employee benefits you'll get is always recommended before deciding to work with a travel staffing partner.
"AMN Revenue Cycle Solutions offers insurance, great pay, a 401k, paid time off, and sick and vacation accrual," said Mara. "Some other agencies don't offer all that. We also offer education allowance, licensure reimbursement, competitive pay rates, free CEUs, and an excellent relationship with the recruiter. Another big advantage is we provide clinical workforce managers, who offer personal support to our social work travelers."
What Makes a Successful Travel Social Worker?
Cathy M., MSW, CCM, ACM-SW, is a CMUR clinical workforce manager for AMN Healthcare Revenue Cycle Solutions. She previously worked as a traveling social worker for AMN, from 2015 to 2016, before taking apermanent job with the company. She is now dedicated to helping other social workers succeed at their travel assignments.
Here are three traits Cathy feels make a successful travel social worker:
- Being flexible - The job can change quickly in the world of travel social work, as the industry saw during COVID. A great attitude and the ability to turn from what you are doing to address a new challenge are critical to success.
- Doing a stellar job - Becoming a travel social worker doesn't mean the job is easier. You'll find the same challenges as with permanent positions. Always uphold high standards and do quality work. Have the mindset that you're there to help with whatever is needed, and you'll have a successful assignment.
- Having thick skin - Travelers help out teams that are typically very busy, so understand you may feel overwhelmed once in a while, especially as you are adjusting to your new job. And, for better or worse, you'll be treated just like any permanent employee. Always do your best, and you'll leave an assignment knowing more than when you started.
Another key to finding success on the road is having a supportive team behind you. In fact, one of Cathy’s favorite job duties is traveling all over the country to visit social workers to discuss their experiences, help them problem-solve, answer their questions, and show appreciation for their hard work and diligence.
"Since I've done their job, if our social work travelers have a challenging situation, we will discuss different ways to solve their issues," Cathy said. "I'm like a personal coach who's just a phone call away."
Cathy still remembers her first travel social worker assignment in Denver, which was the first time this Florida native had seen snow. She enjoyed her time in the Mile High City, including experiencing a different culture and getting leads on all the best restaurants.
"Traveling teaches independence, because although you're working for us, you're working at a facility, and there are people around, you're usually there alone," Cathy said. "But you're also going to make friends because, if you're a traveler, you're likely a social person to some extent, especially if you keep throwing yourself into a new job situation every 13 weeks."
How to Get Started as a Travel Social Worker
Once you’re ready to try travel assignments, AMN Healthcare’s Revenue Cycle Solutions team can help you start the process.
Just submit our quick application and attach your resume, which will be routed to a recruiter. Your recruiter will then work with you to create a job profile, complete a reference check, review your resume, and have you take an online social work assessment.
Once all the information is processed, you and your recruiter can discuss available jobs, and your candidate package can be submitted for assignments. You may have a phone interview and will have the chance to review a job offer before accepting.
"After you start traveling, we also offer a referral bonus," Mara said. "Each referral you give us can be worth up to $1,000."
Traveling Social Workers Supported by One of Their Own