Congratulations! You’ve decided to step out of your comfort zone as a nurse, and get started as a travel nurse. This can be an exciting and highly rewarding experience for you. As you’ve probably already discovered, choosing to sign with a travel staffing agency can make the process of finding travel job opportunities simpler and easier, knowing that the important logistical details are attended to and allowing you to focus on the excellence of your nursing and the excitement of upcoming travel.
As you’re choosing the travel nurse staffing agency that’s right for you, here are some things to consider when exploring and interviewing agencies.
The reputation of the agency
Is this agency stable? Do they have experience? Do some research into the travel nurse agency itself: how long have they been in business? It helps to connect with an agency that has a proven track record.
Check online reviews of the company, both from nurses and from the medical facilities they staff. Other medical professionals, especially nurses like you, can be an invaluable resource for vetting an agency.
Many agencies are owned by nurses themselves. Finding an agency like this can help you feel more secure, as these nurses will better understand your needs and expectations.
Ease of onboarding
There can be a lot of paperwork involved when you sign a travel nursing contract with an agency, as licensing and other onboarding requirements ensure that both you and the medical facilities where you will be employed are protected. Does the agency make it easy to find and complete the appropriate documents? As you will undoubtedly have several personal details to attend to as you prepare to begin traveling, the last thing you need is a convoluted and confusing process.
Details on specific policies are clear
When you’re traveling, the last thing you need is a surprise policy jumping out at you. For example, what happens if you get sick and have to cancel a shift? What if you are late? Knowing these things upfront can save you a lot of headaches later.
Also, does the agency have a guaranteed-hours policy? If you sign on for a particular travel nurse job and specific hours and then the hospital changes or cancels shifts, will you still get paid? Make sure that your agency is clear on these policies, and others, before you sign.
And what about extra hours’ pay? Be sure that your agency is clear on how it will handle paying you for any overtime you may accrue.
Benefits available to you
Find out what benefits the travel nurse staffing agency offers. Do you need health insurance, or would you prefer to carry your own, thereby increasing your take-home pay? What will your pay package look like? Most agencies offer pay packages that include per diems and other stipends. Are any of these things negotiable?
Structure of the organization
Many larger agencies have various departments that handle specific aspects of the job: housing, benefits, pay, overtime, etc. Although this can be a negative if not handled well, if a company is well organized and efficient, it can be a huge plus. It should be clear from the outset who you will need to contact for various issues that may arise. How many people will you need to talk to before your issue is solved? How long will you have to wait before speaking to someone “in the know”? If you’d prefer a different structure where one or at the most two people are handling your portfolio and will be available to you, it’s important to know this ahead of time.
One of the most important aspects to many travel nurses is what housing options are available. Some agencies have a wide range of options available, while others seem to be limited to extended-stay hotels and other potentially less desirable options. Although this can be a limitation of the destination itself, it can also be indicative of an agency that has not done the legwork of curating and maintaining a variety of housing options.
For many travel nurses, the ability to travel with a spouse/partner or perhaps a pet is important. Does the agency have housing options available that will meet your needs? Additionally, if you would rather secure your housing yourself, it’s important to know if the agency would give you a housing stipend instead of securing the housing for you. Many agencies will do this, so it’s important to ask upfront.
Number and quality of job opportunities
Most importantly, find out what opportunities are available to you through the agency. Spend some time on the agency’s website. What kinds of jobs are posted? How many? What specialties are available? Although volume doesn’t necessarily equal quality, it does speak to the agency’s ability to place you in a job that will be a good fit.
Finally, for most travel nurses, the destination is one of the biggest factors in deciding to be a travel nurse. Check your agency’s own job board to see if your preferred destinations are available. Search other hiring websites for postings in the locations you want, then check to see if the agency you are researching has similar postings. Use the American Hospital directory to look for facilities in your preferred region. Contact the staffing offices at those facilities to discover what agencies they work with and seek out those agencies.
Doing your due diligence when choosing a travel nurse staffing agency can make your time traveling smooth and enjoyable. Researching agencies to find the best fit for you will pay off in the long run, allowing you to embrace the adventure of travel nursing.