The following is a Guest Post via Michelle Lane.
Everyone in Health Care is familiar with traveling Nurses, Doctors, Occupational Therapists among others; but a Traveling CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)?
I know! Doesn’t that sound crazy?!
I mean really, I thought the same exact thing. But, it’s true- though we are not in as hot demand as the other medical specialties, we are not only valuable but needed. I have a vagabond gene that screams, “GO SOMEWHERE! Travel, see the country- experience great things!” But most important my vagabond gene tells me, “Go forth and share your compassion and skills with others.”
I started my quest for information and assignments specifically for traveling CNA’s when I first graduated. I knew I could not travel right away; I had to get the right amount of experience, and become great at what I do, and hone my skills, just like a brand new LPN or RN. That’s exactly what I did.
I want to share my ‘Top 10 Most Important List”. I hope the information is helpful, and you are able to utilize the resources and lessen the initial stress of breaking into your new travel journey!
- Your resume is going to be your only chance at a first impression. You have to make it great, and you have to make it complete.
- Highlight your exceptional skills and experience and sell yourself through your cover letter.
- Your resume needs to be clean, concise, and in a professional format in order for not only recruiters but the person who will make the decision to call you for an interview.
- Include your license information, including the state in which you are licensed.
- Include any other certifications or memberships that you have. For example, BLS, or membership with the American Association of Long Term Care Nursing. (Memberships show that you take your profession serious).
Most importantly, above all else – you need great references! If you do not provide references, which can actually speak with a recruiter, it will be useless! Your DON sounds perfect, right? Eh- unfortunately, not so much. Many hospitals/facilities have a policy that all references must be deferred to HR. While that is great to verify your dates of employment, etc., it does nothing for a reference as to the level of your competency in your skills, or how you conduct yourself with your patients and coworkers. References must be from someone who has directly supervised you; such as:
- Charge Nurse (LPN or RN)
- Unit Supervisors
- Clinical Coordinators
- Nurse Mentors, etc.
Once you have built a friendship and rapport with a supervisory nurse ask them if they would mind if you use them as a contact reference in the future. First name, last name, telephone number, and email! You can download a blank reference form for free through the internet or Microsoft Word. Ask them if they would mind filling one out for you, for use in the future.
3. Medical Documentation
In order to travel as a CNA (just like nurses), you will need to have your medical documentation in order.
- Titer paperwork- (verifies immunities)
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Varicella (chickenpox zoster)
- HBV (hepatitis B)
- PPD Test result
- This is required once a year
- Flu shot
- Ask your recruiter if this is required before you leave for an assignment
- Sometimes- this will be required to be within 30 days of travel date, or it could be within the previous 12 months. (This will best be answered by your recruiter- we will get to that).
4. Your voicemail!
You are probably asking, “what in the world does my voicemail have to do with travel nursing?” A lot! Make sure that your voicemail is professional. A person contacting you for a potential travel position is not going to like to hear, : Yo, this is Michelle, yea ya missed me- I ain’t able to get to da phone…. Beeeep, leave me a message wit yo digits!” (LOL, ok so I am not that creative, but I have heard some BAD voicemail greetings- you get my meaning.)
“Hello you have reached Michelle Lane, I am sorry I am unable to get to the phone at this time. Please leave me a detailed message, with your name and telephone number and I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you and have a great day.” (Yes, that is what my voicemail says.)
5. Research, Research, Research!
Deciding to become a traveling CNA is a big step- it would be a horrible experience if you do not make a sound decision on the company that you decide to travel with, the recruiter that you use, and your pay package.
Agency There are a multitude of them out there, some good, some that you need to avoid like the plague! Google the name of the potential agency, for example, XYZ Medical Staffing complaints. Also, there are some great Travel nurse groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and DelphiForums. Just do some homework.
Your recruiter should be your cheerleader, your go-to person, and most of all they should communicate with you! I cannot stress this enough. A good recruiter returns phone calls, answers questions, and looks out for you in all aspects. They should be willing to hold your hand for the entire duration of your time with them. Nothing would be worse than to get to your assignment and have a problem and you can reach them. Cell phone, email, Facebook, etc. If you do not have a warm fuzzy feeling with them, get a new one!
CNA’s are not paid AS much as RN’s, or other medical specialties; however, there are some really great rates out there for us! How do you know that you are getting a good quote for an assignment? Well, let’s look at an example:
Powell, Wyoming -$18 taxed hourly rate (WOW! That is awesome, right?)
-$500 tax-free per week per diem for housing (sometimes called a stipend)
-$300 travel reimbursement to get to your assignment reimbursed by your agency.
You now know that you have a $2000 per month budget to work with. In your research you will want to take a look at what housing will cost, a car (if you are not driving there- for this example we will say we are flying there.
The cheapest all-inclusive housing you can find is $2,600, and it is 50 minutes away. As you can see, this assignment will already eat up all your housing per diem, which means that you will have to pay out of pocket $600 per month, and you have not even researched car rental rates yet. YIKES! Not a good idea, unless you really, really want to see Powell, Wyoming. There will be assignments that you really want, and paying out pocket is something that you just want to do, I get that.
6. Get a notebook
Make sure to keep good records of agencies, recruiters, and proposed assignments that you have been submitted for! While looking for assignments you will not believe how easy it is to get confused. At the top of the page, I write the name of the agency, the recruiter’s name, and contact information, along with the city and state of the assignment. Write down the details from what the recruiter tells you about an assignment and ask for an email recapping all the details discussed, and then compare your notes to what the recruiter sent to you. Yes, it is important. It’s best to catch an error immediately and contact your recruiter to let them know the variances.
**You will want to really read your contract one you receive it, and make sure that all information in your contract is the same as you discussed with the interviewer and your recruiter. Don’t forget to get the full name of the person interviewing you and a contact number.
7.Questions to ask during the interview
(You can use these answers to compare to what you were told by the recruiter, and then let them know what you were told by the interviewer). You would be surprised how information can be different. I know I wouldn’t be happy if I was told by my recruiter that I will be working five 8 hour shifts, with guaranteed 40 hours, only to find out when I get there that I will be working three 12 hour shift and cancellation policy of up to 12 hours unpaid. It can add up over the course of a 13-week assignment.
Find the full checklist of Interview Questions HERE
- Contract Length
- What will my expected duties be?
- Schedule and Pay Rates
- Cancellation policy
- Charting System
8. Useful apps and websites for travelers
(There are other websites, however, these are my personal favorites.)
- AirBnB ®
- Homeaway ®
- Housing Travel Nurses ®
- FlipKey ®
- VRBO-Vacation Rentals By Owner ®
- Zillow ®
- On The Fly® – This is only accessibly through the On The Fly Mobile App (you can search by a period in the calendar or specific days.)
- Hipmunk ®
These are alternative ways to find cars/transportation
- CamScanner® – this is an awesome app where you are able to take a picture of your documents, using your smartphone. I used this app to send all my paperwork to my recruiter.
- PAN Travelers – Useful calculator, so you can see the big picture with contract money. This website is an all-around great resource for traveling nurses.
- Travel Tax- Joe Smith at Travel Tax is a great resource for travelers regarding
- Travel Nurse Network – The Gypsy Nurse – This the ultimate go-to group for me. If I have a question, no matter what time of the day or night, I know that I will get honest answers for any question that I might have. Not to mention I have met some really great seasoned travel nurses.
- CNA Travelers – obviously I am going to plug my group on Facebook. 😉 We are building a CNA specific group just for us! This is a great springboard, so to speak, where you are free to ask questions and meet others with the vagabond gene!
You are getting ready to embark on a travel journey, and you must consider your banking options. Banks are everywhere, but is your bank? If you lost your bank debit card while on assignment how would you get a replacement? Due to possible fraud, many banks will only send a replacement card to your home address on your account, or to a branch in the city that you are in. What if your bank does not have a branch within 200 miles of your assignment city? That would create a big problem. Personally, I got sick of all the bank fees eating away at my abysmal bank balance anyway. (It’s ok to giggle- I did) I decided six years ago to go with non-traditional banking buy using an online bank. There are several out there, and a Google search can help you find others, but of course, I have my pick:
I have 24/7 access to my money, free direct deposit, and a Visa® debit card, and free overdraft protection (with direct deposit). I have the convenience of an app on my phone, and text message alerts for every transaction that includes your current balance. Your account comes with a free Savings account. If you lose your card you can go online immediately and deactivate your card yourself, and set up a “Virtual Debit Card” so you never lose access to your money. NetSpend also has cashback rewards.
As a CNA that wants to break into traveling it is very important that you are flexible and willing to go ANYWHERE. The assignments for CNA’s are not as plentiful as they are for RN’s, so you really have to be open to new places that you may not have thought of.
I hope that my Top 10 List is helpful, and encourages you to step out into the gypsy world and share your skills and experience new places and adventures. You never know, maybe we will meet in person along the way!
About The Author:
Michelle is a Certified Nursing Assistant, having three years of overall experience in health care. She recently found her vagabond gene and is a newly anointed Gypsy that loves to travel, meet new people, and help others to live their dream of traveling as a Certified Nursing Assistant.