Nurses interested in taking their talents on the road have many options. Literally, there are 340 travel nursing agencies in the United States alone. With that many options, how do nurses really know which agency to work for?
Everyone has bonuses, so don’t make any decisions based on those. Compensation is always a vital part of any agreement, but don’t be fooled by big hourly numbers next to smaller ones. Whether bonuses, or other things like stipends and per diems, your pay structure may look different at one agency than it does at another, but most of the time, you’re drawing from the same pool of money.
There are better criteria on which to make your choice than dollars and cents. The following list will help you choose the perfect travel nursing agency for your next assignment:
1) Reputation – There are few things more important than this. The pay, the amenities, that can be quickly changed to meet your expectations by a mere executive. But you can’t fix reputation with money. A travel nursing agency is who everyone says they are.
Most nurses refer agencies by word of mouth, so nurses with an interest in traveling should speak to their coworkers and peers. Depending on your location, there may be more than one travel nurse at your facility. Pick their brain on the agency they’re using, find out what they like and don’t like.
But don’t stop at word-of-mouth. Visit the agency’s website, find them on social media. Are they producing regular relevant content? Are they responsive with the people writing them and reaching out? Is anyone writing the people commenting on the page or reaching out? These are the easiest signs you can use to determine if your travel nursing brand is good or not.
Agencies with a robust blog and healthy social media presence are clearly candidate-centric, meaning whether you sign with them or not, they’re interested in giving you good information. Be mindful of these brands. While content is by no means a deciding factor, it at least lets you know they’re thinking about a lot more than what jobs they can fill.
2) Ignore the Jobs – Or at least be cautious of them. Have you ever noticed that virtually everyone’s sharing the same jobs? That’s because most companies are. But what do you expect in a market where open positions outnumber open nurses 3:1? Travel nursing has reached a 20-year high in demand, meaning if you decide to travel, you have a great opportunity of getting where you want to go.
That’s not to say that some destinations aren’t more competitive than others, but for the most part, it’s not an agency’s job selection that’s going to win you over. Many agencies will post “placeholder” jobs, or jobs that have already been filled, with the expectation of just getting you to their site. Don’t be fooled. Job selection is a given in your market, look deeper than that to make your choice.
3) Support – How accessible is your agency? How quick are they to respond to a missed call, text or e-mail? How informative are they? Support is exponentially more important than advertised jobs. Travel nurses are often working in areas they never even knew existed. A responsive recruiter or traveling/housing coordinator is absolutely essential.
Support is arguably the most important factor when choosing a travel nursing agency, but we’ll leave that for you to decide.
4) Preferred Housing – Plan on traveling with a significant other or bringing along pets? Make sure the agency you’re dealing with employs someone specifically assigned to your housing needs. Ask about housing coordinators and how they accommodate their travel nurses. Any good agency can secure you a furnished place that accommodates your lifestyle.
In regards to paying for housing – know if your agency provides housing per diems. Per diems may be great for you because this money is not taxed! You may however want the agency to take care of it all and eliminate your responsibility of paying for housing. There are pros and cons to each approach. Your housing coordinator will explain more, and if they don’t, there are a few hundred others who will.
5) Great Recruiters – In what’s sure to be the most subjective category, you should be working with an agency known for having great recruiters. You need a recruiter who will get to know you, someone who will really listen. After all, this person is in charge of planning your life for the next 13 weeks and maybe longer.
Your recruiter can make for an exceptional career coach as well and it’s never a bad idea to have more support in your corner. Any good recruiter knows to be open and honest. Honesty is a vital attribute when making your selection. A recruiter who’s less than honest will try manipulating you into any role for the sake of closing a deal. A good recruiter will tell you if it’s a better idea to pass.
Get a feel for your’s. Do you feel them pushing you towards a role that in the back of your head you know isn’t right? Tip of the iceberg.
6) Establish Priorities for Compensation – Key point: Compensation strategies vary by agency. Some agencies flaunt high hourly rates but weaker housing options, while others provide exceptional housing and different amenities in lieu of higher pay and better healthcare insurance. It all depends on what matters most to you — hourly rate, housing, meals /incidentals per diems, and healthcare insurance are all vital factors to consider when weighing options.
Regardless, it’s up to you to establish what means most. And it’s not like you have to do this entirely alone. Any good agency will gladly speak with you and help you determine what makes sense for you.
Seeing a pattern? The good agencies employ recruiters who take a genuine interest in YOU, not the assignment they’re recruiting for.
7) Benefits – Any travel nursing agency worth your time is going to offer quality medical insurance and free professional liability insurance (if they don’t, RUN). Many also offer competitive benefits like a 401(k) retirement plan with employer match (like Tailored Health Staffing does), travel reimbursement, license reimbursement, and the opportunity for paid CEU’s.
To some travelers, some items above are wishlist benefits. To others, these benefits are the bare minimum. Depends on who you sign with.
8) Joint Commissioned – This is huge. The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for a travel nursing agency is an official acknowledgement of efficiency and satisfaction from a neutral third-party. If your agency doesn’t have it, you should ask them why. Oftentimes, hospitals won’t even contract with non-Joint Commission approved agencies – meaning fewer assignments for you to choose. And while we won’t shy away from point No. 2 on this list, not having Joint Commission certification simply restricts your options.
Have we forgotten anything important? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.