When it comes to choosing the staffing firm that will manage your travel nursing career, it's important to shop around and find the company that's the best fit for you. As much as we'd always want to be your go-to, choosing the right agency is like finding your life partner; not all relationships are a perfect fit. And in order for this to all work, it needs to be a win-win. We get that.
After all, everyone has different criteria, and your working future will depend on how well you do your homework. It is up to you to find a staffing agency that fits your needs.
"Start with a clear understanding of why you want to travel," advises RN Sherrill Dunning in industry journal Nursing 2019. "Write down what you want, whether it's the chance for an assignment to a place you've always wanted to visit … or the convenience of housing with a health club attached. Then list the things you need, such as a top-notch retirement plan."
As a nurse, you need to work with a healthcare agency that understands your needs. Here's our advice for finding that staffing agency.
What Do Travel Nursing Staffing Agencies Do?
Medical travel agencies place nurses looking for work in positions across the country. These agencies work with facilities that require additional nursing support to find the right fit. Nurses interested in traveling can work with staffing agencies to secure positions in various facilities and locations across the United States.
Tips for Choosing the Right Travel Nursing Agency for You
As a medical nursing agency, we aim to answer all the questions you might have prior to selecting us as your staffing agency. But not every agency might be so transparent. For this reason, you should discuss several different topics with any agency that you are considering.
1. Discuss the Benefits of Working with the Agency
Many agencies offer numerous benefits to nurses who choose to find placements through them. Many of these benefits could cut into your pay rate, so you must clarify with the travel nursing staffing agency before working with them.
Weekly pay will vary based on location, hours, overtime, and your experience. The agency you select should be able to walk you through the pay rate that you qualify for based on all of these things, including what your overtime pay would be should you work any during your assignment.
You can also ask about shifts during this discussion. If you are interested in nightshifts, you might want to ask if nightshift workers earn more. Also, what if the employer cancels a shift? Will you still get paid? Make sure your needs will be met before signing a contract.
Don't forget, not all agencies automatically deduct taxes and Social Security from your check. Ask about this when discussing pay to make sure there are no surprises after accepting a new assignment.
One of the major benefits that travel nurses are worried about is housing. Company-provided housing is a benefit that many nurses decide to accept. One important question you should ask is whether they handle housing placements or if that is something that you should handle yourself.
It is important to remember that all agencies handle housing a little differently, however. While some agencies will offer high-end housing options to ensure that all of their nurses end up in nice, safe homes, others will offer stays at long-term budget hotels, like Extended Stays.
Some agencies also offer housing stipends. This means that you will receive money for housing, but you are free to choose your own lodging. When this is the case, you can decide whether you want to live somewhere that costs less than the stipend and pocket the extra money or somewhere more expensive where you will be required to pay the difference.
It is also a good idea to ask further questions about housing. For example, is it fully furnished? Are utilities included or an additional expense? Will you have a roommate or roommates?
Some agencies offer medical insurance benefits that cover the nurse and potentially even his or her family members. As far as medical benefits go, each agency could have different offerings for its nurses. Discuss the kind of plan you are interested in with each potential agency to see who can best meet your needs.
While not all agencies will offer a 401(k) or similar option for their nurses, many do. If you are interested in starting or rolling over a 401(k), you should ask any medical staffing agency that you work with about their options. Some nurses opt to open their own accounts and deposit some of their paychecks on their own, which is another option.
There could be additional benefits offered by the medical staffing firms that you are interviewing. Some offered paid vacation time, rental cars, and more that you might not even think about. Be sure to ask about all of the benefits offered by each agency.
2. Ask What Facilities They Partner with
Every staffing agency will have partnerships with different hospitals and clinics. If you are interested in working at a particular facility, then you might need to focus your search on the staffing agencies that work with that facility.
For example, if you dream of working for the Mayo Clinic, you will need to choose an agency that works with the Mayo Clinic for travel nurse staffing needs. In general, you will want to work with an agency with an extensive network, giving you more opportunities when you look for new assignments.
3. Consider the Size of the Staffing Firm
Larger staffing firms will have a broader recruiter pool that will allow you to work directly with a recruiter that understands your needs and works for those needs. You should be able to trust your recruiter to find positions that you are interested in.
Every recruiter will work a little bit differently, so remember, if you choose an agency and decide that the recruiter you are working with isn't a good fit, you can request to work with someone else who better understands what you are looking for.
Larger healthcare staffing agencies often have good benefits, networks, and stability, as well.
4. Ensure They Have Worked with a Nurse in Your Specialty
No matter your specialty, you will want to partner with an agency with at least some experience in placing nurses within that specialty. It could be challenging for nurses with very niche areas of medicine to find a staffing agency that has placed nurses in your specialty before. You should also make sure that they frequently have openings in your specialty. Unfortunately, not all nursing specialties make for good travel opportunities.
5. Ask What Cities Have Availability
Even if a travel nursing staffing agency has positions in numerous locations, it doesn't mean that they offer positions all over the place. Some staffing firms are limited to just high-demand areas. Others are more regional than national. Be sure you are working with an agency that will allow you to travel to the places you want to visit throughout your career.
Many travel nursing staffing agencies claim to have positions all across the nation, but that isn't necessarily true, especially for nurses looking for work in more niche specialties.
As you start considering new locations, you will want to check how salaries align with the cost of living in the area. For example, if you will be working in an expensive area like San Francisco, New York, or Washington, D.C., you might need to make more money. You can also ask about minimum guaranteed hours and whether you will be paid extra for off-shifts, weekends, and holidays.
6. Find a Reputable, Experienced Agency
Before you sign on with a staffing agency, you want to check out their track record. How long has the agency been around? Do they have a good standing with the nurses that have used them in the past? You will want to check out reviews, and you can also ask other travel nurses in your area if they have a recommendation for a reputable agency.
Any respectable staffing firm will have references that they can provide you. You can then reach out to these references to talk about their experiences. If an agency starts acting fishy about references, it is probably a bad sign.
If you are looking for a talented team of travel nursing recruiters, OneStaff Medical is here for you. Our recruiters have access to a wide range of open positions across the United States. To learn more about us, reach out today at 877-783-1483 or browse our current jobs here.