Choosing travel nursing companies to work with can be difficult. Ideally, you would work with every company in order to land the best deal in the best location. But with hundreds of companies in business, that’s just not possible. So, here are the top 11 factors to consider when choosing travel nursing companies to work with.
11: The Travel Nurse Housing Options
I once saw a travel nursing survey back in 2007 which reported that housing was selected by the largest percentage of travel nurses when asked to select the most important benefit from a list of commonly offered benefits. I get the impression that housing isn’t as important as it once was. However, it’s safe to say that housing is still extremely important for those who prefer to take company provided housing.
Different companies take different approaches to housing. Some offer a range of options for their travelers to select from. Some offer only high end options to ensure that nobody ever gets put in crappy housing. Others only offer budget options like Extended Stays.
As a result, it’s always a good idea to ask about housing if it’s important to you. If you prefer nicer accommodations, then watch out for companies that offer $1500 lodging stipends or company provided housing. The rest of their pay package may be higher, but $1,500 per month isn’t going to buy much in most job markets.
Perhaps more importantly, be sure to ask what their company provided housing includes. Is it fully furnished? Does it include housewares? Are the utilities included? Be sure to check out our Travel Nurse Housing Category for more great housing tips.
10: Benefits You Want
Travel nursing companies offer any number of benefits. They might offer medical benefits, 401Ks, weekly pay, paid vacation time, rental cars and more. Now, it’s important to remember that many of these benefits will often cut into your pay rate. However, if you want them, then you should be able to have them. If you can’t find them with one agency, then you will certainly be able to find them with another.
9: Travel Nursing Extra Hours Pay
Once you’ve worked all your contracted hours, the various benefits that comprise your pay package (like housing, medical benefits, travel expenses, M&IE, etc.) have been paid for. Meanwhile, the agency is able to bill the hospital as much, or more, for any additional hours you work. So, if the agency only pays you the taxable base rate or time and a half of the taxable base rate for the additional hours you work, then they are keeping a much larger percentage of the bill rate for these additional hours. Therefore, it wouldn’t even be worth it for you to work any additional hours.
Many companies offer a special rate for these additional hours. These hours tend to add up quick over the course of a contract, so it’s worth your while to know how you will be paid. For more information on this topic be sure to check out this detailed blog post.
8: Travel Nursing Missed & Cancelled Shift Policy
Different agencies have different policies when it comes to missed shifts and cancelled shifts. Missed shifts occur when the travel nurse calls off. Cancelled shifts occur when the travel nurse gets called off. You can find a detailed discussion on this topic here.
It’s fairly common for travel contracts to include a penalty for missed shifts. The value of the penalty is usually equal to the value of the various benefits (housing, medical benefits, travel, etc.) that the agency is providing. However, on rare occasions you may find some agencies who don’t charge these penalties or allow the traveler to miss shift or two without getting penalized.
Travelers commonly accept the missed shift penalties. However, some agencies charge for cancelled shifts as well. This is commonly viewed as unacceptable by travelers and you should have no problem finding agencies that don’t employ this policy.
Instead, you may find agencies that don’t pay your base rate for cancelled shifts, but they also won’t penalize you to cover the cost of the additional variables. You may even find some companies that have iron-clad guaranteed hours policies.
7: Guaranteed Hours Policy
Which brings us to guaranteed hours! You may be wondering how travelers could get penalized or not get paid if a shift is cancelled by the hospital given that travelers have “guaranteed hours.” Well, as we describe in detail in this blog post, not all guaranteed hours policies are created equal.
Simply put, the contract between the hospital and the agency includes a guaranteed hours clause. Some hospitals offer a 100% guarantee, others are allowed to cancel a specified number of shifts per 13 week period, and others have no guarantee at all.
The guarantee offered by the hospital dictates whether or not the agency will be able to bill the hospital in case a shift is cancelled. Therefore, some agencies will make their travel contracts mirror the policy of the hospital in question. Other agencies will just offer a 100% guarantee as a benefit for their travel nurses.
6: Ease of Onboarding
It’s no secret that travel nurses hate paperwork and for good cause. They’re simply inundated with it. Paperwork is often cited by travelers as a reason that they don’t sign on with new companies. That’s unfortunate because working with more companies is the best way to improve your negotiating power.
The common response from recruiters is that the paperwork is required by JCAHO and the hospitals. Fair enough, but the vast majority of the paperwork isn’t required until the traveler actually lands a job. In fact, the only things that are typically required for job consideration are an application, resume, and skills checklist.
This is important because some agencies require travelers to complete ALL the paperwork just to start talking about positions. However, most agencies do not have this requirement. As a result, you can confidently pass on agencies that require all the paperwork up front.
Moreover, there are many agencies that will simplify the process even further. You’ll find recruiters who are willing to accept your resume and input the information into their job applications for you. In fact there are tons of agencies that will accept your BluePipes application, resume and skills checklists for submission purposes. This way, you can fill out one set of documents and gain access to tons of different agencies. The best part is that BluePipes doesn’t sell your personal contact information and you control who receives your information. The bottom line is that it’s not necessary to have a bunch of paperwork dumped on you just to explore the options an agency.
5: The Travel Nursing Recruiter
Many travel nurses assert that the recruiter is the most important part of the equation when it comes to agencies. They say a good recruiter can make a bad company good and a bad recruiter can ruin a good company.
If you just call a company blindly, then you’re most likely subjecting yourself to the luck of the draw as far as the recruiter you’re assigned to. This is fine, but you can also try looking the company up on LinkedIn to find the company’s recruiters. Then you can view their profiles to see if they have any recommendations. You can also Google them to see if they’ve been mentioned in any publications. You may also look them up in the various Facebook groups to see how they respond in group conversations or find out what other travelers think of them.
That said, we’ve covered recruiters extensively on this blog, so here are some links that may be useful:
4: The Travel Nursing Company’s Service Organization
Different companies structure their service delivery in different ways. For example, at some companies, your recruiter will be the only representative that you ever speak with. At other companies, there may be representatives who are responsible for credentialing and you may work closely with them during this process. Typically, the bigger a company gets, the more compartmentalized it gets to where you may need to talk to someone different for each type of issue.
We’re not going to pass judgment on which organizational structure is best as we haven’t experienced them first-hand. We’re also sure that some agencies pull them off better than others. But you may have an idea of what you prefer, so be sure to keep this in mind when researching agencies.
3: The Travel Nursing Company’s Reputation
Of course, the best way to determine the type of service an agency delivers is to research their reputation. To accomplish this, you can take a look at Travel Nursing Central and Highway Hypodermics for ratings. These services are great, but the problem is that there are a relatively small number of ratings available. So, you can also view our consolidated ratings below:
2: Travel Nursing Pay
All else being equal, some agencies offer better pay packages than others. We have discussed how to compare pay packages in detail. Here are some helpful links:
Additionally, it’s always important to discuss “Net Pay” when discussing pay packages. Agencies are able to provide you with tax-free reimbursements for lodging and meals while you are traveling for work away from your legal tax-home. Different agencies handle this in different ways. Some agencies offer a higher percentage of their pay packages as non-taxable money and others offer a lower percentage as non-taxable money. All else being equal, you should pocket more money when one agency has higher net pay than another.
That said, it’s important to remember that it’s against IRS rules to work for minuscule hourly pay rates, like $10 per hour. Therefore, be sure that your hourly pay rate is commensurate with what nurses would expect to make in the market in question.
1: Available Travel Nursing Destinations
We conducted a survey of travel nurses which found that destination and pay were by far and away the two most important variables when considering a travel assignment. Destination was the top choice by the largest portion of travelers surveyed.
As we mention frequently, companies work with different hospitals in different locations. While it’s true that larger companies tend to have exposure to more locations, even they are deficient in some locations. The problem is that almost every agency will tell you that they staff “nationwide.” We’ve discussed how to find agencies that work in your desired locations in a previous blog post, but here are some quick tips:
- Look at the agency’s job board on it’s own website to get an idea of where they have jobs.
- Search job aggregators like Indeed or Simply Hired for jobs in the location you want. If an agency advertises for a particular location, then they probably have jobs there.
- Use the American Hospital Directory to find hospitals in your desired area and contact their staffing offices to find out what agencies they work with.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Did we miss something important? What experiences have you had with this issue? Let us know or provide any other questions or comments in the comments section below!