Professional healthcare workers have been instrumental in the lives of Americans since before the country was formerly established. Dating back to the 19th Century, travel healthcare professionals have ventured near and far to provide patient care and save lives.
For years, professional healthcare workers have experienced a persistent shortage, while their demand continues to grow. With enhanced education efforts and access to more professional tools and resources, the healthcare travel industry has evolved from a niche profession into an ever-growing career choice.
Over time, the healthcare travel industry grew from a simple system with little training to a scientific, technological system focused on excellent patient care. Dating back to the Wild West and beyond, the travel healthcare industry is used to save countless lives by assigning healthcare professionals to a facility in need.
Who can become healthcare travelers?
Healthcare travelers are professionals from many healthcare divisions and specialties who bridge staffing gaps in health facilities across the country. These skilled professionals are committed to offering aid to patients, perm staff, and healthcare facilities alike.
The healthcare travel industry is complete with a robust team of professionals who pride themselves on top-notch patient care. These healthcare workers can span a wide variety of healthcare specialties, including:
- Travel nurses. Traveling nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work within a healthcare specialty. They travel across the U.S. based on healthcare facility staffing needs.
- Travel therapists. There are many different types of professional therapists like physical therapists (PTs), occupational therapists (OTs), speech-language pathologists (SLPs), and more.
- Travel lab techs. Dating all the way back to Madame Marie Curie’s mobile X-ray invention, travel lab technicians conduct a slew of patient tests to help diagnose the root cause of ailment.
- Locum tenens. Latin for “to substitute for,” locum tenens are traveling physicians and clinicians who work on a temporary basis.
A historic timeline of healthcare travel
For centuries, healthcare travelers from across the industry have dedicated themselves to the lives and care of others. Here’s a brief snapshot of how healthcare travelers have changed lives throughout history:
- 1850s: American Frontier. As early as the mid-1800s, healthcare travelers ventured through the Wild West to care for sick and wounded frontier families. Many healthcare workers traveled from town to town to offer the best aid they could to patients and families.
- 1860s: American Civil War. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, healthcare professionals were assigned by government officials to various forts and tents to help soldiers and their families recover from the war.
- Early 1900s: World War I. With WWI came many technological advancements like mobile X-ray units. This healthcare machine required technicians to travel and operate the device. At the end of the war, the S. Treasury founded the first veteran’s hospital and recruited healthcare professionals from across the nation and in 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed the executive order that established the Veterans Administration (VA). Today, the VA uses many locum tenens, travel nurses, and other traveling healthcare workers to provide healthcare to American soldiers.
- Late 1900s: Continued education efforts. It wasn’t until 1970 when a need for rural healthcare professionals was identified in Utah. To aid with healthcare worker burnout and lack of educational training in rural America, the HSRI offered a program at the University of Utah for healthcare professionals to build their skillset and expertise. Since the program provided temporary workers to fill-in for those who wanted to learn, rural healthcare professionals were able to travel to Utah to participate in continued education efforts for the first time. By 1979, the first official locum tenens staffing agency was founded, and the industry demand was booming.
Around the same time, New Orleans saw an uptick in patients during the week of Mardi Gras in 1970. To alleviate the staffing shortage, the local hospital hired travel healthcare workers to fill the facility needs. By the 1980s, the concept became more and more popular as healthcare organizations identified seasonal demands in patient care.
- Early 2000s: The Affordable Care Act. In 2010, President Obama enacted a law to extend health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. With this new legislation came health insurance to more than 8 million people around the country, therefore expanding the need for travel healthcare professionals. Compared to 2002, there was an increase of more than 14,000 professional healthcare travelers in 2020.
How the healthcare staffing industry has evolved throughout the years
From venturing the Wild West to traveling across the entire U.S., the healthcare staffing industry has evolved throughout the years. As the healthcare travel industry and profession continue to grow, research shows that the healthcare industry is on track to make up 20 percent of the U.S. economy by 2025.
Best practices for healthcare staffing have also changed throughout the years, especially with the unparalleled strain from the coronavirus pandemic on the industry. With the rise of COVID-19 in 2020, the healthcare staffing market pivoted to virtual recruiting practices, remote work environments, and brought a shift in what’s important to the average job seeker with types of benefits and diversity growing in importance. In fact, 83 percent of candidates consider the diversity of an organization as one of the most crucial factors when considering a job.
The staffing and healthcare workforce has expanded with multigenerational workers from the baby boomer, generation X, millennial, and generation Z age groups. Plus, new opportunities are available within the healthcare staffing industry with finance, marketing, recruiting, technology, human resource, and other job opportunities.
The role of technology in the healthcare industry
It’s an understatement to say that advanced technology changed everything—with wearable tech to Fusion Marketplace, an online one-stop-shop for professional healthcare travelers, technological advancements play an integral role in the healthcare industry.
Although they are a relatively new invention, it’s hard to imagine a world without wearable technology. These versatile, smart accessories collect users’ personal health and exercise vitals to empower users to prioritize self-care through data collection and interpretation. Not only does wearable tech track and monitor vitals and symptoms, it also helps predict and prevent events that could lead to hospitalization. Plus, wearable tech allows healthcare workers remote access to patient information that can assist in disease prevention, early detection, and precautionary health measures.
Fusion Marketplace is actively paving a new way for professional healthcare travelers and healthcare staffing agencies alike. Fusion Marketplace connects highly qualified healthcare travelers with reputable healthcare staffing agencies in order to fill a facility’s staffing gap or shortage. This unique staffing recruitment platform puts you—the traveler—in control of your career, agency, recruiter, and lifestyle choices in one convenient location making the unknowns known.