There are more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in the United States and each plays an important role in its community. Your time as a traveling healthcare professional at these hospitals contributes to their ability to provide valuable medical services to surrounding rural populations.
For those unfamiliar with this hospital classification, the general requirements for a facility to be considered a CAH are that it:
- Provides 24-hour emergency care services.
- Is located more than 35 miles from another hospital (or 15 minutes in mountainous terrain or areas with only secondary roads).
- Have 25 or fewer inpatient beds.
- Has an average annual length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients.
According to the American Hospital Association, CAHs make up nearly 30 percent of acute care hospitals. You’re likely to encounter contracts at these locations at some point during your travels. It may be intimidating to go from large hospitals with a large staff to a smaller town and smaller facility, but travelers who work CAH contracts can count many benefits at the end of their 13-week assignment.
With a smaller number of patients to care for, and sometimes slower pace, most healthcare professionals find they are able to provide better patient care. You have time to connect with and “treat the patient” not just what ails them. And being part of a small staff will allow you to enhance and develop new skills as you treat a variety of patients and diagnoses. This makes a great experience for someone who enjoys being challenged or who wants to experience a broader spectrum of practice.
You’ll learn to be resourceful. A jack of all trades, so-to-speak. Learning adaptability and embracing it as a skill will serve you well on future contracts. It is a soft skill valuable to employers that you can emphasize as you think about transitioning to permanent opportunities.
Finally, CAHs are wonderful places to build relationships. At larger hospitals it can sometimes feel like you’re only a number. When you step in as part of a small team, you have opportunities to make lasting friendships and professional connections with doctors and fellow staff members.