Updated: Sep 28
Learn a variety of strategies and tips for traveling as a busy medical professional.
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1. Use your CME dollars.
Most medical positions offer a certain amount of money and resources dedicated to CME. CME is Continuing Medical Education, and these CME credits are often required for physicians and other medical professionals to re-certify and renew their medical licenses. The average CME allowance according to Sullivan Cotter and Associates is $3500 to $5000. Academic institutions may offer a bit less each year. These funds can be used to attend conferences and symposiums that offer CME lectures and credits. These funds mays also be used for flights and hotels associated with attending these conferences. As such, using CME dollars can be an amazing opportunity to travel on your company's dime!
The Continuing Education Company hosts a number of conferences all over the country that physicians from all specialties can attend for CME credits. The Continuing Education Company holds conferences and update talks at destinations such as Maui, Hawaii, San Antonio, TX, the Florida Keys, and even Alaska!
2. Choose a job that allows for sufficient time off.
If you are committed to traveling as much as you can while working in health care, it is imperative that you choose a job that is conducive to traveling. That means choosing a job that allows a flexible work schedule or allows you to work in different locations.
For physicians, locums is ideal for the traveling doc. What is locums? Locum tenens work consists of a physician standing in temporarily at another practice or hospital. Locum tenens work can be in another city, state, and can even allow travel to another country! You can find work in a variety of practice settings, including a clinic or hospital, and contract length can range from two weeks to two months. This type of work can allow you the flexibility to take vacations when you desire and work in a variety of interesting destinations.
If you prefer a more permanent position, choose jobs and career paths that are primarily shift work. Currently, my job as a physician requires me to work 14 day-time shifts each month. This position has a 7 days on - 7 days off schedule, which essentially means that I only work half of the year. During my weeks off, I have the ability to use that time to travel, take vacations, and attend conferences. Examples of positions that offer this type of work include the following:
Internal Medicine Hospitalist
Emergency Medicine Physician
For RNs, traveling nursing is also a very lucrative career that offers the flexibility to work and live in a number of different and exciting locations.
3. Take advantage of National Holidays.
When I worked as a medical resident, I would intentionally request weeks off that coincided with national holidays. Our vacation weeks typically spanned Saturdays to Fridays, but if our vacation week ended on a Friday before a major holiday on Monday, I could usually extend my travel days from 7 to 10 days! I soon found that by requesting weeks adjacent to major holidays, I could maximize my time out of the country!
4. Make scheduling changes well in advance.
One of the major advantages of working in healthcare, especially as a resident physician or shift-work employee, is that you know your schedule months, sometimes an entire year, in advance. As such, you have ample time to rearrange your schedule, put in work requests, or find reciprocal trades with other physicians to create your ideal schedule. Personally, I request to trade schedules with other physicians at least 3-5 months in advance so that I am able to travel without requesting more time away than necessary.
5. Present at conferences and symposiums.
If you're looking for an easy excuse to request time away from work as a medical professional, look to present at conferences. Especially if you are active in research, you can do a quick Google search of medical conferences in your local, state, national, or even international community. A great place start is medical societies and associations in your specialty. If you work in Internal Medicine like me, associations and societies that have annual conferences include:
The American Medical Association
The National Medical Association
The American College of Physicians
The American College of Cardiology
The American Academy of Family Physicians
Prepare that abstract. Submit your application. And travel! Likely on your organization's budget!
6. Save up your vacation days.
If all else fails, simply save up your vacation and/or sick days. My job gives me accumulated vacation days, which means that for every month that I work, I am allotted 1 vacation day (or 8 work hours). Although many medical jobs prefer you to trade days to allow for proper staffing, if you are unable to trade days, using your well deserved vacation days is also a viable option. I typically reserve my sick days for times that I'm ACTUALLY sick, so be sure to plan your travel accordingly.
Traveling as a busy medical professional is definitely possible, it just takes a bit of planning and creativity. Your profession doesn't have to stifle other hobbies that you find enjoyable. In fact, I find that my travels and time away from work actually make me a better and more competent physician.
Be sure to pin for later!