The Advocate Behind The Nurse: Nick Wichman

Nick Wichman is a travel nurse advocate for Nurse First Travel Agency. He is located in the northeastern part of the United States.

What made you want to become an advocate?
The CEO, Jeremy, and I actually went to high school, together. I was able to see the company from the very beginning and watch it grow as big as it did. I knew I wanted to help him out and be a part of the movement.

Before I started this position, I was a factory supervisor and worked in long-term care facilities as an activities director and a sous chef as well. It was Jeremy who brought up the opportunity to be an advocate a while back.

I have always enjoyed helping people, talking to them, and trying to better their lives, so nursing was something I was interested in but never pursued myself. Then this opportunity came about, and I couldn’t pass it up. It was something that I had been looking for for a while. Getting nurses involved with Nurse First is something that I genuinely enjoy doing.

What strategies do you use for bringing nurses to Nurse First?
The strategy I use is treating everyone like family, which is one of our core values. When you feel like a family member instead of a number on a piece of paper, you’re more prone to join that company because you want to, not because you need it for income. Other advocates and I take the time out of our day to actually see how the travel nurses are doing. Sometimes the only thing you hear from a recruiter is what they need you to do and other mundane everyday things, and that’s not good. We believe in transparent, open communication.

How have you seen the travel nursing industry change while being in your role?
I’ve been an advocate for a little over three months now, so I haven’t been here for a very long time. However, even in my three months, I’ve seen a significant change. Obviously, Covid played a big part in causing some people to jump ship from different staffers and bringing the rates to where they are now. Some of my nurses have even noticed a dip in the rates as well. The great part about it is hearing my nurses tell me they’re not in it for the pay, but because being a nurse is something they love to do.

What do you enjoy about being an advocate?
I’m a talker, so I love talking to our nurses. I enjoy getting to really know the nurses that are on assignments more personally and not just on a professional level.

I had a nurse and her husband start an assignment in Colorado a couple of weeks ago. She sent me a picture of the sun setting over the mountains and said it was the most beautiful view she’s ever had. Another nurse went on a fishing trip with her son and showed me the big fish he had caught. I love making them feel comfortable enough to see me as a friend instead of only a recruiter.

What is most challenging about being an advocate?
It can be challenging to find some travelers the right assignment since rates are dropping all of the time, and the pay can be one of their priorities. You have to be vigilant with who you’re working and partnering with because you want to cultivate a strong relationship. So, it’s important that they feel comfortable, which can also be a hard thing to do.

It can be difficult to have open communication with some nurses, especially if they have been burned by other companies. I sometimes have to break them out of their shells and break down their barriers to get to know them, find what best suits their needs, and make them feel at ease.

Do you have any words of advice that you share with new travel nurses?
I would say to at least have two years of experience before becoming a traveler. A few facilities require a minimum of two years, but those years will help you feel confident in your role as a nurse. We don’t want to throw you to the wolves, and you don’t understand what you’re doing. An assignment is roughly 13 weeks, and your facility won’t have time to train you then. Your contracts expect you to be already established as soon as you walk through the door.

Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone thinking about becoming an advocate?
You have to want to do what you do. We are currently remote, so people think we sit in sweats all day, watch TV, and do whatever we want—that’s not the case. This isn’t a job you can treat as a hobby. Like I mentioned earlier, I was a supervisor before I came here. I think I’m more exhausted leaving this job than usual because it’s more work than you anticipate, but I love what I do.

Being an advocate isn’t just a job either. This is a career. If you’re looking for a career in a fast-paced environment and are in love with what you do, this is exactly where you should be.

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