Cathy M., far left, and friends

Traveling Social Workers Supported by One of Their Own

Experienced Social Worker and Former Traveler Plays Key Role on AMN RCS Team

Starting her social work career in 1987, Cathy M., MSW, CCM, ACM-SW, has experienced many healthcare venues, including short- and long-term acute care, skilled nursing homes, dialysis centers, and home health.

Her favorite setting was hospital social work because she wanted to work with people in crisis.

"While we can't solve every single problem, especially when we have only a few days with a patient, you can make a difference," she said. "And being able to make that difference, even if it's just a Band-Aid to soften the situation, means the world to me."

After working permanent positions as a social worker for 28 years, Cathy started working as a travel social worker. Little did she know that she was creating the ideal foundation for a job she'd later take with AMN Healthcare Revenue Cycle Solutions' Workforce Management Team.

From Full-time Social Work to Travel Assignments

Cathy grew up in the Tampa, Florida area, and stayed close by throughout her career as a full-time social worker.

In 2015, she worked in a long-term acute care setting, which she found challenging due to the number of complex medical patients. After being involved with three patients who had to be removed from life support in one day, she needed a change.

"I'm still doing social work because that's not my profession; that's who I am," Cathy said. "That's what defines me. I've been doing it my whole life. But I knew I needed to be in a different setting."

One of her colleagues, who was also looking for a job, was interested in a traveling social worker opportunity with Med Partners, which has since merged with AMN Healthcare. The assignment didn't quite fit her lifestyle at the time, so she gave the agency Cathy's contact information.

Three weeks later, Cathy was on a plane to Denver for her first travel social worker assignment with the Colorado Medical Center. She covered for a woman out on maternity leave and worked in the outpatient bone marrow transplant center.

"That was an excellent job," she said. "That was the hand of God waving over me and giving me a break from so much death, dying, and serious illness. I was now seeing patients at a different level and not having to call hospice all the time. It was a great opportunity to be able to use other skills and help people plan for their illness instead of being at the end of their illness."

As a traveler, Cathy said she treated her assignments as though she was a guest in their hospital with a mission to help them. She strove to always take the high road, be professional, and enjoy the travel experience, including learning different things about the community and its culture.

From Denver, Cathy went on to assignments in Newark, Delaware, and then Houston, Texas. After having worked in the Tampa area throughout her career, Cathy’s travel assignments forced her to figure new things out, which helped build her confidence and independence.

She also discovered the thrill of being a traveling social worker was not just vacationing and doing the standard “tourist things” in each location, but assimilating into the culture and learning more about it. Travel assignments are typically for 13 weeks, which provides ample time to get to know a city and explore the surrounding area.

A Permanent Job Supporting Travelers

Between her social work travel assignments, Cathy would return home to Tampa and visit the nearby AMN Healthcare office. She met the staff and took side projects before leaving for her next assignment. After her Houston assignment, the staff asked her to join their ranks as a permanent employee.

"I started in the education department, and my path has been full of opportunity," she said. "I've had great mentors and bosses who have pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me learn so much. It's been a great opportunity of learning and adventures."

Today, Cathy is part of the Workforce Management Team, where she consults with and coaches traveling social workers across the country.

"I support travelers when they're on their assignments," she said. "If there's an educational need, I try to get them the resources that they need to make sure that they're at the skill level that's appropriate for them to complete their assignment and meet the clients' needs. I also spend time getting new travelers accustomed to being a traveler since I've had that experience. If there are performance issues, I intervene and try to get them the resources and the coaching that they may need to get their assignment completed."

For new social worker travelers to be successful, Cathy said they have to remain flexible during their assignment and location choices. She learned from her own travels that sometimes it gets down to where the need is greatest. She also noted that travelers should strive to make the most of every situation, even though assignments aren't always easy.

"There's always an end in sight, so there's going to be a light," she said. "So have fun where you're at. Work your Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00, and then enjoy the moment of where you're at. It's life. Enjoy it."

AMN Healthcare is the largest healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company in the U.S., and we’re here to help! REQUEST STAFFING SUPPORT for your organization, or VISIT OUR WEBSITE to learn more about social worker assignments.