You’ve decided to take the plunge and become a travel nurse, taking your passion and skills on the road. You’ve done some research, and you know that it’s best for travel nurses to find a travel nurse agency. You know all the pros and cons–or at least, you think you do. But along the way, you may have picked up some ideas of travel staffing agencies that may not be quite right. Here are some common misconceptions you may have seen along the way.
The agency will pay 100% of your housing costs
Every agency operates a little differently in this area. At Nurse First, we offer consulting and assistance with housing, but securing housing is not included in the contract. We do offer a plethora of resources and advise our nurses to look into websites like Airbnb to aid you during the transition period of beginning your travel nursing career. Every travel staffing agency is different, which will affect how much of your housing is secured and how much is already paid for.
Accepting the stipend and choosing your housing situation is a lower-cost option
In the same vein, you may think you can do better than the agency at finding cost-effective housing options, planning to pocket some of the extra money from the housing stipend. But this can backfire, as many agencies have spent time negotiating price, location, and other details of living arrangements for their nurses–especially in high-interest markets, where the costs of temporary housing are often two or three times higher than the agency has available; not to mention how difficult those temporary situations can be to find.
The agency’s healthcare benefits will cost you less out of pocket
Again, not necessarily true. Although it may be easier logistically to have your health insurance through your agency, it may not be cheaper than finding your plan. Remember, the costs for that insurance may come out of your overall hourly pay or other parts of your pay package. As with anything else, do your research when it comes to accepting the agency’s benefits. You can choose the best option for you.
Another benefit of having your insurance is if you decide to sign with a different travel nurse agency at some point, you will not experience any interruptions in your medical, dental, or vision coverage.
Travel nurse staffing agencies guarantee things like PTO and pay for canceled shifts
No two agencies are the same. As you interview and research different agencies, you must discover their policy on things like guaranteed paid time off (PTO). Some agencies offer such a benefit, while others do not. Don’t assume that yours does.
Also, ask about the agency’s policy regarding hospital-initiated shift cancelations. Will you still get paid if the hospital cancels your shift? It’s better to ask this on the front end so you’re not surprised–and stuck–while on assignment.
You can only work with one staffing agency and one recruiter
Nope. Not true. It can be significant to your advantage to sign with multiple agencies, as that can greatly expand your options for placements. As all agencies are not the same and have different hospital connections in different cities, you can increase your opportunities not only for facilities and locations but also for assignments and specialties, as one hospital may have different specialization needs than another right down the road. Research and interview with multiple agencies, and consider signing with more than one.
To that end, you’ll often interview a recruiter when you are considering signing with a new agency. Does that mean you are stuck with that recruiter? Absolutely not! Since your recruiter will be your lifeline while you’re away from home, you must have an excellent rapport with this person. You may find that the first recruiter you speak to is not the best fit for you. Interview another recruiter! You will not insult anyone by doing so; in fact, this will communicate your dedication to finding the right situation.
All travel nurse staffing agencies are the same
This is probably the most common myth surrounding staffing agencies: “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all!” But just as all hospitals are not the same, and all nurses are not the same, all travel staffing agencies are not the same. This is why it is so important to do your due diligence in researching and interviewing agencies before signing with one (or more).
Aside from the obvious aspects like pay packages, benefits, job postings, etc. that are offered by the agency, dig into the agency’s professionalism. Check the reputation of the staffing agency, as hospitals will most likely work with nurses from an agency with a strong industry reputation. Check with the Joint Commission, whose “Health Care Staffing Services (HCSS) certification provides you with an independent, comprehensive evaluation of your firm’s ability to offer expert staffing services.”
Become familiar with industry standards, and check and double check each agency with whom you interview against those standards. The agency’s reputation and professionalism directly affects your reputation!
Finally, remember that the “perfect” agency doesn’t exist. Much like dating, getting to know several agencies before you commit will help you find the best fit for you. Then you’re ready to dig in and enjoy your new adventure!