Meet Traveling Social Worker & Case Manager Laura S., LMSSW, ACM-SW
Ever wonder what motivates people to become healthcare travelers? Each person has their own story, but it often involves love of travel, adventure and the quest to continue learning.
Social worker Laura S., LMSSW, ACM-SW, took some time off after graduating from college to work and explore her options in the public health field. She went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina to get her master’s in social work, then took a job at a hospital near the university.
About two-and-a-half years into her first social worker position, in late 2018, she began to feel her job was on a dead-end path. She asked an allied health traveler at the hospital if social workers can also travel, and was excited to learn that they could.
“I've moved a lot, and I get bored so easily, so I need a career in which I don’t do the same thing all the time,” Laura said. “I didn't have any growth potential at my full-time job, and I couldn't afford to do anything fun and continue to travel. So, it just seemed as though traveling would be the perfect way to afford a better lifestyle and see the country at the same time.”
Laura submitted some applications to healthcare staffing companies, and one called her manager for a reference. Fortunately, Laura’s boss then told her about a recruiter she had met with AMN Healthcare’s Revenue Cycle Solutions (RCS) division, which helps organizations manage their healthcare staffing and operations, and handed over his contact information.
That recruiter was Austin D., and Laura has been working with him ever since.
“Austin is very engaging,” Laura said. “I joke that he's the second main man in my life because I talk to him once a week. I mean, he knows all about my dog. So, we definitely hit it off from the very beginning.”
Life on the road
Starting her fourth year as a travel social worker with AMN’s Revenue Cycle Solutions group, Laura sums up her experience so far as “being on vacation for 13 weeks and getting paid to do it.” She also enjoys exploring new towns and communities.
Her first travel contract was at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, which is an expansive hospital setting. From there, she headed to Kirkland, Washington, and fell in love with the beautiful natural setting and myriad hiking trails in the area.
Just as she arrived at her assignment hospital right outside of Seattle, however, it recorded one of the first known COVID deaths in the country. And even though lockdowns were soon to follow, Laura still did her best to explore the area.
“I made so many weekend trips, out to the Olympic Peninsula and up near the Canadian border and stayed in an Airbnb out in the middle of nowhere — the ultimate social distancing,” she said. “And along with the luxury of travel work, especially when you can't go out and do much, I had saved a ton of money. After that contract, I took a month off, and I just road-tripped out West, visiting friends, camping, hiking, and having a great time. And then, I did a contract in the Bay Area in California.”
After working on the West Coast, Laura drove with her dog, Roxie, across the county to an assignment in Washington, DC. She always travels with Roxie and plans out her route to see the sights. During this trip, she stopped in Park City, Utah, to see a friend.
“I fell in love with the Bonneville Salt Flats, which is off of I-80 in Utah,” she said. “I then drove from Park City to Denver and drove through various towns, including one near the Colorado-Utah border called Dinosaur. That’s where you can still find dinosaur fossils.”
Focusing on case management and psych assignments
Currently, Laura is on assignment with a Baltimore hospital, about an hour from her parents’ home. Her job has a case management focus.
When working as a social work case manager, Laura makes sure that patients have everything they need to leave the hospital, including planning their next steps, setting them up at home with services and equipment, or sending them to hospice or a facility for post-acute care.
In other assignments with a psychiatric focus, she has worked in an emergency room and helped with psych evaluations, determining commitments for patients, and sending them for admittance into psychiatric hospitals.
Laura likes Baltimore so much that it’s on her short list of places where she would consider settling down after traveling.
For anyone considering travel social work assignments, Laura encourages them to give it a try.
“My best advice is don't be scared to take the plunge because, if anything, it's only a 13-week contract — and you make good money doing it,” she said. “So, why not do it and get that experience?”
“I thought I was pretty good at my job when I first started traveling,” she continued. “But then I went to a huge hospital system, where I worked in many different specialties. I learned so much ... Traveling is an excellent personal and professional decision.”
Laura said she’s going back to the Pacific Northwest for the summer. From there, she’d like to take assignments in Southern California or the Northeast, perhaps in Boston or Connecticut. Luckily, the field is wide open with opportunities.
AMN’s Revenue Cycle Solutions can connect your organization with talented social workers and case managers like Laura. Simply submit a staffing request and we’ll be in touch.
Seeking traveling social worker jobs or other clinical opportunities? Check out exciting career opportunities across the U.S.