What it’s like being a travel MRI Technologist


I get a lot of questions about being a temp or travel tech. I am currently working in MRI and I currently work with _______________. I accept contracts throughout the US (there are some in Canada as well, although I have not accepted an assignments there. I will discuss the good and bad about being a travel technologist and things you will want to watch out for. I will give a very honest opinion of my experience being a travel tech for 2 years.

Let’s start with the fun part of being a travel tech. I have been all over the US. Some of the assignments I have accepted were in Anchorage, Alaska, Portland, Oregon, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Columbia, Missouri, Dayton, Ohio, Bryan, Ohio, Albany, New York, and Massena, New York, and San Francisco, California. I had an awesome experience in Dayton, Ohio as the hospital was exceptionally nice and the staff was as well as MOST of the radiologist, and the patients were pretty easy. In Albany I received 45 min-to an hour for lunch (its typical that MRI does not even get a lunch so that was a HUGE perk). Everybody there from the staff, radiologist , to people in general were very nice.

Some of the perks of being a travel technologist include the awesome pay. I have worked with two travel companies, _____________&_____________. I have found that _______ pays a little more than _______. Both companies offered 600 a month incentive if you drive your own car. So I try to pick most assignments where I can drive my own car to get that 600 a month bonus. They also pay for mileage up to 250.00 one way to your destination (so that is 500) by the time you get back home and you can claim any extra mileage on your taxes. There is also 280.00 a week per diem.  Basically you can use this for things like food and toothpaste etc. Both travel companies also paid for housing and all utilities and even would pay SOME of your cable/internet bill. They do not offer that information so I found out by word of mouth. Both companies offer health insurance (that I will discuss later). Both companies offer PTO after so many hours are worked for the company. Both companies do a pretty decent job at finding a place for you to stay. However, sometimes you can get stuck in a crappy apartment or a dingy hotel, but you can always ask your account manager to place you some place else if you do not like where you are. Did I mention that your take home pay will be double or more than what you currently make as regular staff employee at your local hospital.

Another perk of being a travel or temp tech is that the assignments are relatively short. Some assignments can be 2 weeks, or a month. My longest assignments have been 13 weeks. If I hate the place, I just don’t renew my contract. There are no repercussions to not renewing your assignment once its over. You jut complete your contract, then POOF you are gone.

The expectations of you are high, however, the managers and radiologist at the hospitals understand you are temporary help and that you will not be perfect, which takes some of the pressure off of you. You are expected to be skilled in many exams, but protocols are so different from hospital to hospital that if you make small mistakes, they are overlooked as long as you correct them and try not to make them again.

You will learn an incredible amount of skills while you are traveling. I have learned all kinds of different exams and different angles etc that the radiologist like and I have come across so many odd implants etc that I feel I have become a more well rounded technologist. I bounce around from GE to Siemens, to Phillips. to Hitachi scanners so much that I have become extremely good at adapting to change very well.

I have met so many wonderful people along my journey. I have kept in touch with quite a few people from my travels. I have also learned that there are actually some really good supervisors still out there. Before I was a travel technologist I came across so many awful supervisors that I just lost my faith and trust in them. However, I have met a few really good supervisors and managers during my travels.

You have control over your contracts. I do not like working third shift or taking pager call so I make sure all of my assignments are first or second shifts with no call. I always interview prior to accepting a position. I ALWAYS ask the manager I am interviewing with on expectations of my schedule and if there will be pager call. If the answer is yes to third shift or call, I pass on the assignment and move to the next. I have learned that even if the person I am being interviewed by says there MIGHT be third shift or call….it means there WILL be third shift and call….so I pass that contract up and move to the next. Do NOT be intimidated to tell your account manager that a certain contract may not be a good fit for you. I am pretty upfront with my account manager so they know not to look for anything that has third shift or pager call…but you still need to ask questions during your interview. In fact, every hospital I have interviewed for has encouraged questions. They want to make sure you will be a good fit for their organization as well!

Now for the bad…..

You will be placed in the most awful assignments imaginable. I have had several assignments where they were so understaffed that I was the ONLY MRI technologist working at the time. Now that can be a little intimidating because there is A LOT of responsibility working in radiology. I have had to put up with some very awful and nasty personalities of staff and radiologist. I have had to guess on protocols because there wasn’t anyone to ask, so I rely a lot on my past experience. There are many times I do  not get breaks or lunch and get out late. It can be very overwhelming. There have been times that I wanted to just flip the place off and quit…and I actually did one time believe it or not. I can only take so much abuse then I am out…PEACE

I have worked assignments that had the expectation of getting patients in and out in 30 minute time slots and I am by myself. If you work in MRI, you know the stress of that. It is impossible to stay on schedule with that little amount of time frame.

The health insurance is just awful. _______ offered pretty decent insurance but it did not kick in until 30 days after your first contract started. You can take maybe a week or two in between assignments off, but you lose your health insurance and have to wait another 30 days after the start of the next assignment to get it back. If your health insurance drops, they offer cobra which is a ridiculous 600 a month. I now have private health insurance through my state so I can take as much time as I want or need in between contracts and I do not have to worry about losing my insurance.

Traveling gets exhausting. At first it is exciting because everything is new. Then the new wears off and it can get lonely, boring, and just exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I need a month off after every assignment. I have heard many travel techs say this.

Your paychecks will often be wrong. You have to check EVERYTHING every week or you will be missing money. It seems as if almost every week they forget my car allowance money or my weekly 280 per diem or they didnt pay for my electric bill (yes, sometimes _______ makes you sign up for the utilities in your name and they reimburse you, and I HATE that).

This is probably the one thing that pisses me off the most about being a travel tech (as this rule applied to ______ &_________)…..if you do not meet your contracted hours per week (example, you are contracted to work 40 hours , but your work 38), you not only get paid for just 38 hours but additional money is taken out of your paycheck! They take out a little from your per diem and car allowance every week you do not meet your contracted hours. Ridiculous …..but they do that shady shit!

Read your contracts! I cant shout this loud enough. Read every last tiny word in your contract because it can bite you in the ass if you don’t. A good example is I was told by one of my account managers at one of the companies that I would receive car allowance for the assignment so I drove my own car. When I got my first pay check, the weekly 250 for car allowance was not on there so I called the company. I was told it was not in the budget but it was documented in my contract. So don’t always trust your account manager…READ YOUR CONTRACTS!

If you happen to get sick or get the flu or have a family emergency to take care of while on assignment, you will most likely be dropped from the assignment (depending on how much time you need off). If it is just a day or two, you can use PTO if you have some accumulated (you do NOT accumulate sick time), but if you need a week or two off, you will most likely get dropped from the contract and possibly owe money if it is not an AT WILL contract. So read your contract!

Travel companies are unforgiving on family emergencies and sickness etc. Sad to say that but it is the harsh truth.

Can an assignment be so bad that you leave without repercussions? The answer is maybe. However, you have to have an abundance of proof and the sad thing about the entire situation that you may be in is…NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU! Its a business. The travel companies do not give two shits about how you are being mistreated and they will ALWAYS side with the hospital because its a business and they do not want to lose any. They do not care if you lose your job etc…they can and will replace you in a heartbeat. So you just have to grin and bear it for the contract period and then leave with the middle finger if you feel the need to do so!

Lastly, Yes I have walked off an assignment. I have put up with an incredible amount of bull shit in this career but there was one particular assignment I had in California that was so disturbing and painful that I left the assignment. Basically I was lied to by the account manager of the company I was working for. The company told me that parking fees were 200 a month and they would reimburse 80.00. I said I guess that was ok (even though it made me upset that I had to pay ANYTHING out of pocket for parking expenses…I agreed. Well, the parking was actually 600 a month. So that was 520 a month being taken out of my paycheck. Yes I screamed and screamed about it. Then on my second day there the manager decided to hold a meeting with all of the staff except the two travel techs and left us with exams we had never done before. Then there was a crazy employee who actually put her hand in my face as I was asking her a question….and I dont know about anyone who live in California but you do that shit to an east coast girl and you will get your hand broken. Long story short…there were several other odd things at that facility so I sat down with management and told them I was leaving and they can shove this shitty job up their ass and I left.

Do I recommend doing that…..no.. However, there are 100 travel agencies out there ready to do almost anything to get you to work for them. So I just chose another travel company and so far its going ok. However, I do not have a problem finding another travel company if I need too.

So there you have it….the good and the bad of being a travel Radiology Tech!


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