You may look at travel blogs all day, wondering what it would be like to be able to travel all over the country. Many people dream of travel and adventure, but can’t leave their jobs to pursue their travel dreams.
As a traveling medical assistant, you can explore all over the country while maintaining a steady income. Traveling medical assistants pick up short contracts (typically a few months) all over the country. At the end of a contract, you can stay where you are at or take another contract somewhere else.
This article will explain how to become a travel medical assistant, pros and cons of travel work, how travel medical assistant agencies work, and more.
What is a Travel Medical Assistant?
A travel medical assistant is someone who works in clinics or hospitals with staffing shortages for a few weeks or months at a time. They usually sign a 4-to-12 week contract.
When the contract ends, they can either sign another contract with the same place (if offered) or look for a contract elsewhere.
Travel medical assistants typically make more than the average medical assistant salary (~$37,000 per year or $18 per hour), including a stipend for living.
Note that travel medical assistants need to have enough experience to be comfortable working right away in a new office or clinic. They typically won’t receive long training or orientation before starting work.
Traveling medical assistants have the same responsibilities as standard medical assistants. They will perform both clinical and administrative duties assisting medical doctors, which we go over below.
Clinical Duties of a Travel Medical Assistant
A travel medical assistant workload is the same as a standard MA. Travel assistants will be expected to catch on to facility policies and procedures quickly and should be ready to jump right in to work with very little training.
Clinical duties of a travel medical assistant include:
- Measuring vital signs
- Givng patient injections or medications as directed by the physician
- Collecting blood and other body fluid samples for testing
- Assisting with patient examinations
- Removing stitches
- Preparing patients for medical tests
Administrative Duties of a Travel Medical Assistant
A traveling medical assistant will also be responsible for administrative duties during each of their travel contracts. Administrative duties include:
- Answering phones
- Scheduling appointments
- Helping with billing and insurance
- Collecting patient information
- Recording information in the computer system
- Submitting refill requests
Where Do Traveling Medical Assistants Work?
Medical assistants work in clinics, retirement communities, hospitals, doctors offices, and chiropractic offices. Here’s a look at each:
- Clinics. About half of medical assistants work in clinics. Many of these clinics are specialized in something like pediatrics, podiatry, dermatology, cardiology, OB-GYN, or family practice.
- Hospitals & urgent care. Medical assistants are needed in hospitals and urgent care centers all over the country. Working in these facilities may require you to work evenings, nights, and weekends.
- Retirement communities. With our aging population, more and more medical care providers are needed in retirement communities. Many of these communities operate like regular neighborhoods with medical care close by and providers on call 24/7.
- Chiropractic offices. Chiropractic offices usually focus on holistic healthcare. Chiropractic assistants will generally have more administrative than clinical duties.
In all of these settings, a travel medical assistant will spend most of the day interacting with patients. While you may sit to perform administrative duties, medical assistant work requires you to spend a lot of time on your feet. Medical assisting is a fast paced job that is ideal for people who like to stay active and busy.
How Contracts & Assignments Work for Traveling Medical Assistants
Contracts can be found all over the country and pay varies depending on where you go. Clinics with fewer core staff and higher workloads generally pay more per hour.
Many clinics and hospitals looking for travel staff need help right away. If you want to be a travel medical assistant, you will have to have flexibility to move away with only a week or two of notice.
Most contracts pay an hourly rate plus a weekly stipend. The stipend is meant to cover meals and housing expenses during the length of your contract. You do not have to pay income tax on the stipend.
Travel contracts do not typically include relocation help. Expenses related to moving to a new location will be your responsibility.
Contracts for travel medical assistants can be as short as 4 weeks and as long as 6 months. Some clinics might offer travel medical assistants extensions or permanent jobs at the end of their travel contracts.
Travel Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook
Medical assistants are in high demand all over the country. As the United States population ages, healthcare workers' job outlook improves.
For medical assistants, employment opportunities are expected to grow 18% from 2020 to 2030. This is more expected growth than most other healthcare support occupations.
In the United States, there are about 100,000 job listings posted for medical assistants each year. This high need for more medical assistants has created a demand for traveling employees. Travelers are meant to fill staffing needs until facilities can find permanent workers.
Certified medical assistants and registered medical assistants are also paid more than non-certified medical assistants. You can also get paid more if you have other certifications such as phlebotomy and certified nursing assistant.
How to Become a Travel Medical Assistant
To become a travel medical assistant you’ll need to be prepared to jump right in to a new clinic with very little training or orientation. Since clinics will be hiring you for a temporary position, they cannot afford to spend extra time on your training.
Most travel jobs require that you:
- Obtain your high school diploma or GED. Before you can go to a special training program or college for medical assisting, you have to have your high school diploma or GED.
- Graduate from an accredited medical assisting program. There are many colleges, technical schools, and online companies that offer medical assisting classes. These can be done in person or online. Stepful offers a 4-month online medical assistant training program that comes with a 100% job guarantee that you might want to check out.
- Obtain your medical assistant certification (optional). Some states and healthcare facilities require you to have a medical assistant certification to work there. To become certified, you must pass a certification exam given by the AAMA, AMT, or NHA.
- Have at least 2 years of medical assisting experience. This is potentially the most difficult and most important step. Since travel medical assistants are always working in a new facility, they do not receive the same training as permanent employees. Most traveling staff will take a full workload from the first day they arrive on the job. This would be too overwhelming for someone new to the role, so having two years or more of experience is often required.
How Travel Medical Assistant Agencies Work
If you would like to work as a travel medical assistant, you might want to find an agency to work with.
Travel medical assistant agencies help you find jobs and negotiate contracts for you. Many of them will also reimburse you for becoming certified.
Being a part of an agency protects you from payment issues. Many agencies also offer insurance benefits, retirement plans, and recruiters that will help you find the best job for you.