We recently wrote an article titled 14 Ways That Recruiters Betray The Trust Of Travel Nurses. We received a lot of great feedback on the article including many requests for an article on how travel nurses compromise the trust of their recruiters. Surprisingly, these requests came primarily from travel nurses who pointed out that trust is a two-way street. So in this blog post, we’ll discuss 15 ways that travel nurses compromise the trust of recruiters.
Before we start, I have to point out that this is a very difficult article to write. Travelers are BluePipes’ core member demographic. In fact, we are pretty much in the business of providing solutions for the problems travel healthcare professionals face in managing their careers. So writing anything that could in any way be considered disparaging about them is quite disconcerting.
That said, it’s important to remember that in some cases a breach of trust is a matter of perspective while in other cases a breach of trust is universally accepted as such. So just because one party to a relationship thinks that an action constitutes a breach of trust doesn’t mean that the other party agrees. However, it’s still mutually beneficial for both sides to understand each other’s perspective.
Additionally, we’re confident that travelers are a perceptive lot who understand that discussing these issues doesn’t constitute a critique of the entire group, but rather provides an indication of the exceptions that can sometimes occur. As we’ll point out throughout the discussion, some of these cases are so rare that they are really one-offs and others happen a bit more frequently but are much less egregious.
Finally, one of the primary goals of this blog is to provide unbiased information about travel healthcare in an effort to bridge gaps between travelers and recruiters. As we all know, there are two sides to every story. So with this particular article, we hope that understanding some of the difficult things that recruiters experience will help travelers gain a deeper understanding of the industry as a whole and ultimately get more out of their travel healthcare experience.
Why It’s Important That Recruiters Trust Travel Nurses
Now, it’s widely understood and accepted why it’s so important for travelers to trust their recruiters. However, recruiters trusting their travelers gets much less attention. Despite this, maintaining a recruiter’s trust is actually really important for travelers.
In the worst case scenario, a lack of trust can lead the agency to label the traveler as a “DNU”, or “DNS”. These are acronyms for “Do Not Use” and “Do Not Send”, both of which are pleasant terms for the pejorative “blacklisted”. This can be particularly troubling for the traveler when the agency is very large. This is because larger agencies tend to have a lot of Managed Service Provider contracts, so getting DNU’d with them could potentially result in an inability to work with any of the hospitals these agencies provide single-source services to.
There are several other potential consequences when recruiters don’t trust travelers, all of which depend on exactly why the trust was compromised. First, a lack of trust could lead recruiters to offer lower pay rates if a concern develops that the traveler presents a flight-risk or exhibits routine attendance issues. The recruiter and agency may factor these risks into their compensation calculations. This could come in the form of lower pay or maybe even less desirable housing options. For example, the agency may offer only an Extended Stay type option because they’re concerned they’ll get stuck with housing costs related to a lease if the contract doesn’t work out.
Second, a recruiter may call on less trusted travelers last for the best assignments. When the recruiter has a great assignment they naturally want to offer it to their preferred clients first. And being trusted plays a major role in being preferred.
Finally, recruiters may even pass on travelers altogether for certain assignments. For example, if an agency has a particularly strong and close relationship with a certain hospital, then they may be reluctant to take a risk on damaging that relationship with a traveler that they don’t trust.
On the flip side, if an agency has a strained relationship with a hospital, then they may want to send their best travelers there to mend the relationship. In this case, agencies are sometimes willing to offer premium pay rates to entice their best travelers to take the assignment. Travelers who have lost the trust of the agency may not get these offers.
At this point, you may be concerned that you’re not trusted because you’ve never gotten one of these deals!! Don’t worry, these deals are rare and you will definitely know if you’re not trusted. The good news for travelers is that the overwhelming majority of them are completely trusted by their recruiters. In many cases, the issues described below are minor grievances that just ding or chip the trust. As you’ll see, it’s got to be something pretty egregious to completely lose the trust of your recruiter.
So here are 15 things that travel nurses can do to compromise the trust of their recruiters. We provided quotes when we could find them, but it’s pretty rare for recruiters to speak negatively about travel healthcare professionals in public forums, so the quotes are limited.
#1: Thrashing the Travel Nurse Housing
This one pretty rare, but there are many scenarios that qualify and they can all be pretty devastating for the recruiter and agency when they happen. To give you an idea, I had just two serious issues with this in my nearly 6 years of working at an agency.
In one case, the company had provided a fully furnished 1 bedroom apartment. The apartment was left in immaculate condition and we got the full deposit back. However, the furniture supplier called us asking where the TV, housewares, linens and end table were. It’s possible that the traveler didn’t take these items, but they never returned my calls unfortunately, so I never found out. A flag was added to the traveler’s profile in the company database alerting future recruiters to inquire before proceeding.
In the other case, the traveler was working at a hospital in my area. The walk through was conducted after the traveler left. We didn’t get the deposit back and were tagged with a $1,700 bill for damages. This is why agencies typically require a walk through to be conducted at least a week prior to vacating company provided housing. I learned that lesson the hard way.
Of course, you’re probably wondering why the agency didn’t just dock the pay of these travelers. Well, that’s not legal in most states despite what the travel nursing contract says. And because I worked with a completely honest agency, we did things by the book. This means the agency would have had to take the travelers to court which would have been more trouble than it was worth. Instead, we took a loss on the first traveler and worked with the second traveler for several more assignments to earn the funds back.
On the other side of the equation, travelers often find themselves getting charged for damage to company provided housing that they don’t feel they’ve caused. It’s important to remember that these charges are initiated by apartment managers. Recruiters should be warning their travelers of this possibility every time a traveler takes their company provided housing.
Travelers should get in the habit of taking pictures during the initial walk through when obtaining their housing. This goes for both agency provided housing and housing you obtain on your own. Also, carefully document all existing damage in writing. We recommend sending all photos and documentation to your recruiter whether they ask for it or not. This helps ensure against apartment managers keeping deposit money for unjustified reasons.
#2: Running Up the Bills
When I first started working at my old agency, we paid for all the utility and cable bills for our company provided housing. At some point, we realized that some of the utility bills were beyond big. It was almost as if the air conditioner was being run 24-7 at 65 degrees while 100 degree heat raged outside. We were seeing single bills as high as $450 for a small one bedroom apartment. This might not sound like much, but multiply it by 20 to 30 and it starts to add up pretty fast.
We ultimately changed our policy to provide a capped monthly stipend in order to cover bills. As a result, travelers were responsible for putting all utilities in their name. I’d be very curious to hear from travelers and agencies as to how this is typically handled for them.
This isn’t necessarily an issue that causes major trust issues for a recruiter. However, the fact that the agency changed it’s policy is an indication that they felt trust had been compromised.
#3: Repeatedly Cancelling Contracted Shifts
Everyone agrees that there are many totally legitimate reasons for missing work including illness and family emergencies. It’s even understandable that miscommunication regarding scheduling can occur from time to time resulting in a missed shift. However, when cancelled shifts and punctuality become a routine issue, then recruiters will naturally begin to lose faith in a traveler’s diligence.
When a traveler repeatedly misses shifts, it can strain relations between the hospital and agency. Moreover, the agency has calculated all costs and compensation related items based on the expectation that the contracted hours will be worked which allows the agency to bill the hospital and generate revenue. Cancelled shifts add up quickly and can result in major costs for an agency.
I encountered a one-off scenario with this issue that readers may find interesting. I was working with a traveler who was on assignment in my agency’s local market, which is Sacramento, California. For the first three weeks of the assignment, the traveler worked every shift. Then, for the next 6 weeks or so, the traveler would call off 1 or 2 shifts per week. At some point, we got a call from a recruiter who had left our company to work for a local hospital. They said that the traveler had been working shifts at that hospital for several weeks.
So the traveler was cancelling their contracted shifts and working PRN shifts at this other hospital instead. You’re probably wondering why. Of course, the agency wasn’t paying the traveler their hourly rate or M&IE stipend for the missed shifts. However, the agency was providing housing, and a rental car, both of which were paid for by the agency. As mentioned above, we didn’t dock paychecks for legal reasons so this traveler was getting free housing and a free rental car for the hours they weren’t working. Obviously, this shattered our trust for the traveler.
This provides a glimpse of why many travel nursing agencies have cancelled shift penalties. However, as we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, many travelers understand when there are penalties for cancellations that are initiated by the traveler, but penalties for cancellations initiated by the hospital are a different story.
#4: Cancelling or Backing Out of Travel Nursing Contracts
Don’t lie to your recruiter about a family member being ill or dying to try and get out of an assignment. Be honest – people talk. We find out when you are looking for a new job when they call us for employment verification. Remember leaving an assignment early without notice causes your recruiting company to incur thousands of dollars in penalties, possible empty housing charges and ruins the relationship with their clients for future travelers.
This is a tough one and we’ve dealt with it in great detail in a previous blog post so we won’t rehash all the details here. Simply put, there are certain circumstances in which a traveler cancelling a contract are understandable and acceptable, and others in which they are not. Unfortunately, the recruiter experiences a big letdown in all cases.
There is the potential for financial loss on the agency’s part when travelers cancel contracts. The closer the cancellation is to the start date, the more of a chance there is for financial loss. And there will definitely be costs when the contract is cancelled after the start date. The agency may get penalized by the hospital for 1 to 2 weeks worth of billing. They may have already spent money on housing or they may have even signed a lease.
As a result, the recruiter’s supervisors will come to the recruiter for an explanation. This can make recruiters feel a sense of blame and responsibility for the traveler’s cancellation. In some cases, agencies actually do hold recruiters responsible especially if it happens often enough to the same recruiter. The agency may dock the recruiter’s revenue which will affect the recruiter’s pay. Additionally, the agency will begin to question the recruiter’s screening ability.
Moreover, recruiters put in a lot of time and effort to match a traveler with an assignment and it’s a really great feeling when everything comes together. Unfortunately, it’s a really horrible feeling when everything falls apart. That feeling can take thoughts in a really negative direction. Additionally, the recruiter will most likely feel that they’re losing out financially because they won’t earn the commission they were looking forward to earning.
Despite all of this, it’s important for recruiters to remember that travelers face similar risks. Contracts are cancelled by hospitals without good cause leaving travelers in relatively the same spot. No matter what justification or remedy a recruiter offers when hospitals cancel contracts on travelers, the simple fact is that the traveler will almost always be out at least a week’s pay if not more while their next assignment is locked down.
However, when hospitals cancel contracts without good cause, travelers should remember that agencies NEVER want this to happen so it’s not the recruiter’s fault when it does. And agencies should remember that travelers are counting on them to hold hospitals accountable in every possible way for unjustified cancellations in an effort to ensure hospital cancellations happen less frequently.
The point here isn’t to justify the inexcusable cancellations on the part of travelers. Instead, the point is that we all need to remember that it’s not a good idea to jump to the worst conclusions during such trying times. Agencies and travelers are really in this together and both parties need to take steps to ensure the integrity of the business is maintained.
#5: Not Following Through With Travel Nursing Paperwork
You may not back out of an assignment just because you do not like the amount of paperwork given to you. Otherwise, both you and the recruiting company may be responsible for huge penalties. Begin working on the agency paper work right away so that you are not overwhelmed all at once.
I think it’s both fair and understandable to say that travel nurses hate paperwork. The simple reason for this is that there are mounds of paperwork involved in travel healthcare. Each phase of the process is laden with it and each phase involves different consequences when travelers fail to complete it as promised.
In the initial stage of the process, recruiters need to get a traveler’s submission profile together. The standard practice is to require the traveler to complete the agency’s online application and skills checklist. If a traveler agrees to complete this documentation by a certain time and then fails to do so, the recruiter may begin to question how serious the traveler is about working with them. And when the traveler does complete the paperwork, the recruiter may still have lingering concerns.
This is important for travelers because there is almost always additional work that the recruiter must complete on the back-end after the traveler completes their end of the paperwork. So if a recruiter thinks the traveler isn’t serious, then the recruiter may choose to prioritize paperwork for other candidates perceived as more serious.
After an offer is made, the real mounds of paperwork get piled on. At this point, recruiters are up against a deadline to get all the paperwork submitted to the hospital. And recruiters know it’s best to get the paperwork submitted to the hospital as early as possible because you never know when some document will be flagged by the hospital for some random reason as unacceptable. Missing paperwork can ultimately lead to delayed start dates and even cancellations.
The whole process can be very stressful for the recruiter when paperwork is delayed. Delays can cause the recruiter to question how serious the traveler is about the assignment or how diligent they will be moving forward. This can all have an impact on trust. As a result, travelers should consider providing their recruiters with realistic time-frames for when they can complete paperwork and stick to them.
That said, while we sympathize with recruiters and agencies on this point and think it’s necessary for travelers to recognize the importance of paperwork and the stress it can cause recruiters, we also think it’s time that agencies recognize the industry has a paperwork problem. In fact, it’s almost like a paperwork addiction. And while this may not be the fault of agencies, they are in a position to impact the issue. Therefore, agencies and recruiters should take steps to simplify the process.
We feel so strongly about this that we’ve created a documentation management system designed to simplify the onboarding process for both travelers and agencies. With Parallon, FlexCare, Soliant, Valley Healthcare and other great agencies accepting BluePipes applications, resumes, and skills checklists, we hope that many more agencies will be soon to follow. And we’re certain that if travelers reward companies that accept the documents with their business, then more agencies will come around.
#6: Accepting Travel Nursing Jobs in Places Different than You Said You Wanted
It’s common to see travelers making complaints that their recruiters are pitching them jobs in locations that they’re not even remotely interested in. This complaint is certainly understandable. However, your recruiter may have some warranted trust issues.
It’s actually quite common for travelers to accept assignments in locations that are remotely different than the desired locations they conveyed to a recruiter. For example, a traveler might tell a recruiter they will only go to San Diego, CA for the winter and then end up taking an assignment in Millinocket, Maine through another agency. Milli-who?!
I have to be honest travelers, I can’t fault recruiters for this one. And it’s not necessarily that they don’t trust you, but that they just have trust issues on this one point. However, recruiters should probably avoid taking a pushy sales approach when pitching such positions. Mentioning all the current open positions in passing or emailing the traveler with a list of open positions and then following up with a telephone call is typically a better option.
#7: Going Dark on Your Travel Nursing Recruiter
We talked about the negative implications of recruiters communicating poorly with their travelers in our last blog post. And communication is certainly a two-way street. When a traveler goes completely dark on a recruiter and stops returning calls and emails it can compromise the recruiter’s trust for the traveler. However, this can depend on how far along in the process you are. If a traveler has had a conversation or two with the recruiter and has yet to send in any paperwork, then there shouldn’t be a problem.
But if the traveler was in the process of getting submitted to assignments or had spent a lot of time with the recruiter, then trust can be compromised. Travelers should be concerned about this if they think there is potential to work with the recruiter in the future. This is because the recruiter might question how serious the traveler is the next time the traveler contacts the recruiter.
The recruiter may decide to devote less time to the traveler as a result. Recruiters are always making decisions as to which candidates to devote their resources to. Travelers should want to be high on that list with every recruiter that they have good rapport with to ensure that they can quickly and easily land jobs when they need to.
The good news for travelers is that this is really easy to remedy. Simply keep your recruiters posted with direct communication about what’s going on with your job searches. Even an email is fine.
#8: Missing Travel Nursing Interviews
It’s really tough on the recruiter when a traveler misses a scheduled job interview. Of course, there are many reasons that a traveler may miss a scheduled interview some of which are totally understandable. However, it’s best to always inform your recruiter in advance.
Here again, when a scheduled interview is missed, the recruiter is typically approached by supervisors for an explanation. This gives the recruiter a sense of blame and responsibility. Sometimes, the recruiters are actually held responsible. They may get reprimanded for not properly communicating with their traveler to ensure the traveler followed through, or for not properly screening the traveler to determine how serious the traveler was about the position.
At the same time, recruiters and agencies need to remember that missing unscheduled phone interviews is completely understandable. It’s perplexing that some hospitals still choose to contact travelers at random without establishing a scheduled time, but many do. Recruiters and agencies shouldn’t fault travelers when these calls are missed.
#9: Calling Out Travel Nursing Recruiters and Agencies on Social Media
We all know how big social media has become in recent years. The phenomenon is prevalent in travel healthcare as well. There are tons of Facebook groups that are very active and there is a Travel Nursing LinkedIn group that has over 10,000 members.
Social media is a great tool for so many reasons. Among those reasons is the ability to hold companies accountable for poor practices and bad service. Many companies have changed ill-perceived policies and remedied bad service simply because they were called out on social media.
However, travelers should always give their agencies and recruiters a legitimate chance to address their concerns before resorting to social media. While certain issues are difficult to deal with on a one-to-one basis, taking negative issues straight to social media can create a huge PR nightmare for a recruiter or agency, especially when the issues are taken up in groups as opposed to the company’s own page. The issue or post could be viewed by thousands before the agency even knows what’s going on.
So travelers should appreciate the damage that posting negative issues to social media can cause and use it as a last resort. Of course, that means agencies and recruiters must understand that they run the risk of getting called out via social media if they don’t provide exemplary service. That said, some agencies have been known to threaten legal action, so travelers should be careful.
#10: Jumping Travel Nursing Agencies Without Giving Your Recruiter a Chance
While you are on contract, other recruiters will call you offering you $1 more per hour or bigger completion bonuses to try to flip you to their company for your extension… Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. That $1 more per hour might be because they do not offer insurance or have a below par insurance offering. Speak to your recruiter about what you are being offered and give them a chance to compare with you or adjust your package before you switch companies.
This one requires some qualification. Travel nurses should never worry about changing agencies to take a job that their current agency doesn’t have. Sure, your recruiter will be bummed, but they should understand that staying employed and getting to your desired destinations are the most important goals. Also, if it’s well-established between you and your recruiter that you aren’t happy with them and you’ve given them chances to make things right to no avail, then it should come as no surprise if you leave for another agency.
However, when a traveler switches agencies with no warning despite having a great relationship with the recruiter, then the recruiter will rightly be concerned moving forward. Of course, if you never want to work with the recruiter again, then you may not have anything to worry about. But here again, if you do wish to work with the recruiter in the future, then it’s best to give them a chance to keep you on board to ensure that they’ll continue to trust you and work hard for you moving forward.
One of the main examples of this is when travelers switch agencies for an extension without forewarning their current recruiter. This is most commonly done for higher pay rates and it’s absolutely fine to shop around to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible. However, if you have a good relationship with your recruiter, then you should at least give them a chance to match or beat other offers.
Of course, you may be wondering why. Why would you want to work with a recruiter that paid low rates? Well, it’s not always the case that the recruiter is paying a low rate. Sometimes, certain agencies have better bill rates than others at the same facility. And there are a host of other reasons that this can happen that are all legitimate.
The point is that just because they aren’t paying the best rate on this assignment doesn’t mean they pay terrible rates or are gouging you. It’s better to give the recruiter a chance to explain in order to keep the relationship strong so that you can have another ally on your side for future job searches.
That said, recruiters and agencies must realize that $1 per hour is actually A LOT of money. It’s $468 per 13 weeks, which makes it over $1,500 for the year. It’s fair to say that agencies and recruiters should expect travelers to leave for even less than that.
Of course, travelers should expect that they will have to negotiate for the best rates. If you’re interested, you can download a copy of our free eBook “How To Negotiate The Best Travel Nursing Pay Packages” by using the share or like buttons below.
#11: Failing Travel Nursing Drug Screens
This one goes without saying as long as it’s a legitimate failure. That said, it’s important for travelers to remember to disclose all medications and prescriptions when taking their drug screens. I had many instances in which we had to send travelers in for a second screening because they forgot to disclose medications. With that in mind, recruiters shouldn’t immediately pass judgement when they get a failed test.
#12: Financial Issues
It’s difficult to discuss issues of financial mismanagement. Many people question why companies should even be concerned in any way about how their employees manage their finances. After all, they’re the employee’s finances not the company’s.
As far as travel healthcare is concerned, it’s pretty rare for agencies and recruiters to concern themselves with the financial situation of a traveler unless the traveler starts asking for advances or calling with other financial woes. This happens more often than you might think. It’s important to note that it’s not just travelers; everyone experiences these problems.
This causes concern for several reasons. First, agencies typically advance at least a small amount of money up-front in the form of travel stipends, the cost of clinical exams, or license and certification reimbursements. They also provide housing and sometimes even rental cars. And perhaps most importantly, travel nursing contracts are financial obligations in essence. So recruiters and agencies would prefer to have confidence in the financial well-being of the traveler.
When recruiters are concerned about financial issues, they maybe less prone to offer up-front payments and reimbursements. Or they may only offer Extended Stay type housing options that can be secured on a daily or weekly basis.
#13: Being Terminated for Cause from Your Travel Nursing Contract
This is a tough one for both travelers and recruiters. To clarify, we’re referring to situations where the hospital terminates the contract for disciplinary or performance related issues. Sometimes, hospitals cancel contracts for suspicious reasons. In some cases, it’s hard to believe the hospital wasn’t just looking for a way to get out of the contract to avoid paying for a traveler they no longer needed due to low census or some other illegitimate reason. Other times, the reasons for terminations are totally warranted.
It’s important for agencies to have a very solid remediation process in place to deal with these issues. It’s also required by JCAHO. Unfortunately, hospitals don’t always provide the best reports on these issues which leaves agencies flying blind in some cases.
In any case, agencies and recruiters would be wise not to rush to judgement on these issues. Luckily for travelers, most agencies are really good about this. Personally, some of the best travelers I ever worked with were terminated with cause at some point. At the same time, travelers should understand that trust will take a hit when terminations are warranted.
#14: Mismanaging Travel Nursing Time Cards
Travel nursing payroll is a nightmare for agencies and recruiters. There’s a reason that many of the largest companies pay bi-weekly. Not only do an agency’s employees work remotely, but they work for third parties, all of whom use different time reporting methods. To top it off, travel nursing payroll, with all the stipends and one-off payments, is much more complicated than standard payroll.
There are two issues that can compromise trust. The first is not following established protocols. Again different hospitals handle time reporting in different ways so it’s impossible to discuss all the variations. For travelers, the important thing is to follow established protocols in an effort to ensure that payroll execution is accurate and seamless.
That said, agencies should do everything they can to make the process as simple as possible for their travelers. For example, don’t ask for a phone call when a text message will do just fine to report that a time card has been turned in.
Another big issue that falls under following protocols is respecting work break and meal break rules. You’re probably thinking, “What meal break?!!!” And that’s the point. Despite the fact that hospitals often don’t provide time for breaks and meal breaks, that doesn’t mean they’re not in violation of state law in some cases.
We had cases where travelers filed grievances against the agency over missed meal breaks. The problem is that neither the recruiter nor the agency was aware that meal breaks were being missed. Sometimes, your recruiter can help get that cleared up if state law is on your side. So it’s best to always let your recruiter know if you’re having an issue with this or anything else related to your time card.
The second time card issue that can betray the trust of a recruiter is falsifying time cards. This is a rare occurrence but it does happen. Everyone can agree that a falsified time card constitutes a breach of trust.
#15: Specious Competing Travel Nursing Pay Quotes
This is another tough issue for recruiters. Every recruiter that’s been in the business for any length of time has faced this scenario. A traveler presents them with a competing offer for the same job that is so high that it seems impossible. The problem is that sometimes it’s legit and other times it isn’t.
As big as the travel nursing industry seems, it’s actually really small. Recruiters are power networkers and they talk. As a result, there are times when recruiters find out through their industry connections that the competing compensation quotes they received are inaccurate.
On the flip side, there are times when those quotes are indeed accurate. I once had a traveler send a competing quote for the same job with a rate that was $10 per hour higher than my best possible rate for the assignment. I had a very close relationship with this traveler and I recommended he take the assignment through the other agency. He sent me a copy of his pay stub and sure enough, that’s what he was getting paid.
It will always be difficult for recruiters to accept that such competing rates are accurate. But the truth is that in some cases they are. On the flip side, perhaps travelers can take comfort knowing that this issue cuts both ways.
Maintaining the complete trust of your recruiters as a travel healthcare professional can pay huge dividends. Unlike traditional permanent employment recruiters, your travel nursing recruiters will continuously be finding jobs for you and negotiating pay with you. Ensuring that you’re high on their list of priorities will make it easier for you to get to your desired destinations at the best possible compensation.
The good news is that the vast majority of the issues described above are matters of simple communication. Being straightforward with your recruiters and relying on them for assistance and guidance when possible, is usually all it takes to build their trust.
As always, we’d love to hear about your experiences with this issue. Please post them along with any questions or concerns in the comments section below. And please let us know if we missed something!