How to Handle References as a Travel Nurse

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Maintaining your professional references is extremely important when seeking travel nursing jobs. It will also be important when transitioning back to permanent employment. Every facility has its own requirements regarding references. The standard requirement for travel jobs is: 2 supervisory clinical references covering 1 year within the previous three years in the specialty applied for.

I’ve learned first hand that the best facilities have the most stringent requirements. Some facilities will not accept a travel nurse candidate without a reference from the candidate’s most recent Unit Manager. Solid references can be the differentiating factor in determining which candidate lands the travel job, or permanent nursing job. The problem is that while facilities require references, they also prohibit their employees from providing them.

Nurturing references as a permanent employee

There are several approaches to solving the reference dilemma. If you’re a permanent employee, you should definitely develop close relationships with several charge nurses, supervisors, and others in supervisory roles. I realize that this sounds duplicitous. However, building such relationships is good for many reasons, and besides, this is your healthcare career we’re talking about.

When the time comes, politely ask these individuals if you can put them down as a reference for future employment opportunities. I know this can be a difficult conversation for many to have, but it’s necessary nonetheless. Keep in mind that the individual checking the reference is going to ask about your level of expertise in the specialty in question, about your ability to handle stress, your quality and quantity of work, and your attendance record. You’ll want your references to be able to positively attest to these aspects of your work. You also want to be sure that they don’t decline to provide a reference when called. That’s why requesting permission from your references before putting them down is important.

Using clinical evaluations as references when travel nursing

You should try to develop the same types of relationships as a travel nurse. However, developing this level of relationship as a traveler can be very difficult. You’re most likely going to be there for only 13 to 26 weeks. To work around this problem, you can rely on an Evaluation Form.

Typically, the contract between the company and the hospital will require that the hospital provide the company with evaluations for the their travel nurses. You can ask your travel nurse recruiter to provide you with a copy of this evaluation for your records. This will probably work for about half of your jobs. Unfortunately, hospitals don’t always comply, and sometimes companies will refuse to provide you with a copy. I believe that companies that refuse to provide copies of references do so as a way to keep their travel nurses beholden to them.

In the event that you’re not able to get a copy from the company, you can take your own evaluation form in to the facility and ask a charge nurse or supervisor to complete it. You can ask your travel nurse recruiter for an evaluation form, create one yourself, find one on the internet, or use this generic form: Clinical_Evaluation.

Evaluation forms for future permanent jobs

In any case, you’ll want to be sure that you have copies of these for your own records. They will be a huge help in landing jobs…especially the best jobs. They’ll also be a huge help when you’ve decided you want to make the transition back to permanent work.

If you travel for a period of one or more years, then you’ll most certainly need these evaluations when applying for permanent nursing jobs. It will be very unlikely that you’ll be able to rely on phone based reference checks without the written evaluations. Unfortunately, many traveler references forget about the traveler because they worked together for such a short period of time. Moreover, the more jobs you have, the more likely it is that your references are no longer working at the facility making them impossible to get a hold of.

When the reference checker for a permanent employer calls to check your professional references, a completed evaluation form will ensure that all goes smoothly and the reference doesn’t forget who you are. The form can be faxed to the evaluator or another contact at the facility in question for verification.

Evaluation forms for travel nursing jobs

These forms are also very useful for your travel nursing job searches. Making contact with references is often a time consuming task. References aren’t always available and they sometimes have no sense of urgency to return calls. This can result in significant delays in getting your submission profile ready, which in turn causes delays in getting submitted for assignments. And because travel jobs fill so quickly, getting submitted quickly is imperative. These written evaluation forms can suffice the reference requirement for submission so you’ll get submitted quicker.

Please provide comments and recommendations based on your experience with references. And please let us know if there are any questions.

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3 replies
  1. Teresa says:

    Nice article. And, spot on! I have been traveling for 5 years now. Every travel company, and every institution needing a traveler asks for references. I have had the great pleasure of doing return assignments at several institutions, and know I can count on these supervisors for references whenever needed. In addition, I believe that I would be welcomed back at every institution I have traveled at. Only once, however, have I had the privilege of seeing my evaluation. In part, probably, because I didn’t ask. Going forward, I think I will try to get them all to fill out an evaluation for me. (The link contained within this article didn’t work). I can certainly see the value of having copies in my personal files.

    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Thanks for sharing this valuable first-hand account of how important references are as a travel nurse, Teresa. I’ll figure out the problem with the link and post a message here when fixed. My apologies for the inconvenience.

    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      I’ve updated the link for the Clinical Evaluation. Please let me know if you have any problems with it. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Teresa. Again, my apologies for any inconvenience.


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