During my time working for travel nursing agencies it was routine to hear candidates complain about being inundated with telephone calls and emails from recruiters. Then, last week, having been away from travel nursing for nearly 2 years, I received the same complaint while fielding a call from a new BluePipes member. Protecting your personal contact information, and in essence your privacy, as a travel nurse is clearly a problem and always has been. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the common ways in which a nurse’s privacy can be compromised and offer some privacy protection recommendations.
How lead generators compromise a travel nurse’s privacy
I received a call from an ICU nurse with 20 years of experience at a Level 1 Trauma hospital while I was taking an afternoon walk. She and her husband, an ER nurse at the same hospital, were researching a future in travel nursing when they came across BluePipes. We discussed pay, tax issues and how to find good agencies to work with. Before the conversation ended, she explained that she had been getting overwhelmed with telephone calls and emails and was suffering from information overload as a result.
I asked if she knew how it came to be that she was receiving so much agency contact. She explained that perhaps it was because she had entered her information on a website that promised to have “the top agencies” contact her. She was dismayed when I explained that depending on the service she used her contact information could possibly make its way into the hands of almost anyone willing to pay for it. This is a trap into which many nurses unexpectedly fall. We’ve politely referred to these websites as “Broadcast Services” in a prior blog post. “Lead Generators” is the commonly used name in the industry.
What is a Broadcast Service?
“Broadcast Services” are services that offer to broadcast your interest in travel nursing to agencies. They pose themselves as the solution to a commonly perceived problem, finding the best agency. They routinely make claims such as, “Let great jobs find you!” or, “One application connects you to the top agencies of your choice.”
Some broadcast services are independent companies that partner with agencies to provide leads. Some examples of independent broadcast services include RNVIP.com, TravelNurseSource.com, TravelNursing.org, and there are many others. Essentially, these companies are lead generators who will sell your contact information to almost any third party willing to pay for it.
Selling Travel Nurse Contact Information
We reserve the right to release past applicants submitted through our website to a third party only for the purpose of employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, this policy runs contrary to their advertised sales pitch insinuating that users get to choose which agencies receive their contact information. Here is a quote from their homepage:
1. Complete our simple application.
2. Select the agencies you would like to apply to
3. Your selected agencies will contact you with assignment options.
While this quote is certainly true, it masks the company’s greater intent to sell the contact information to any third party who may offer employment related opportunities.
Sometimes, independent broadcast services will sell your contact information to literally anyone willing to pay for it. Such is the case with TravelNurseSource.com and TravelNursing.com. Consider the following quotes from their privacy statements:
You also agree that we may share, store, distribute, publish, exchange, transfer, and otherwise disseminate your information with any third party and including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, marketers, hiring agencies, employers, and others, whether or not it is done in exchange for consideration (in other words, we may disseminate it without requiring the third party pay us for it), or to any third party that acquires all or a part of our assets or the ownership of our company, or a successor in title to our business.
We may enter into alliances, partnerships or other business arrangements with third parties who may be given access to personal information including your name, address, telephone number and email for the purpose of providing you information regarding products and services that we think will be of interest to you.
Given these wide-open privacy policies, it’s no wonder that nurses get bombarded with telephone calls, emails, and junk mail for years to come after releasing their personal contact information to independent broadcast services.
When you release your contact information to independent broadcast services, there’s no turning back. This is because they are going to try and sell your information to as many third parties as they can, as quickly as they can. That’s how they make money. To mitigate the damage, you can contact the broadcast service and request them to stop selling your contact information. However, once your contact information has been sold, there is nothing that the broadcast service can do to stop it from being used.
Affiliate or Shell Broadcasters
There’s another type of broadcast service that won’t compromise a nurse’s contact information to the same degree, but is a little deceptive nonetheless. We’ve referred to these as “affiliate or shell broadcast companies” in the past. These services tend to be owned and operated by the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the country. For example, travelnursing.com is owned and operated by American Mobile Network and rntravelspace.com is owned and operated by Cross Country Travel Corps. These large healthcare staffing agencies each operate several healthcare staffing agencies and use these shell broadcast companies to generate leads.
So, why are these companies deceptive? For starters, they insinuate that they’re independent by making claims like “We partner with the nation’s top staffing companies.” In reality, they ARE the nation’s largest healthcare staffing companies. Moreover, the sites are branded differently than their parent companies. One must also dig fairly deep to determine that these companies are indeed owned by larger healthcare staffing companies. This all means that nurses may unwittingly divulge their contact information to companies they may not have otherwise intended to divulge it to.
When you divulge your contact information to a shell broadcasting service, you may be able to stop the calls and emails fairly easily. This is because there are fewer companies involved. Shell broadcast companies are far less likely to sell your contact information to third parties because they don’t want their competitors calling you. So, start with requesting that the shell company remove you from their lists. Then, proceed to request that the large healthcare staffing company and each of its subsidiaries remove your contact information from their lists as they contact you.
How CEU and career content services compromise a nurse’s privacy
In addition to lead generators, there are a couple of other services that nurses should be mindful of if they want to protect their personal contact information. First, nurses should be mindful of CEU websites as well as career content websites. Some CEU and career content websites are owned and operated by larger entities who will use the nurse’s personal contact information for purposes other than CEUs.
For example, RN.com is owned by American Mobile Network and Nurse.com is owned by the Gannett Company who is part owner of CareerBuilder. So when you release your personal contact information to such CEU and career content sites, you may also be releasing it to the parent company and its third party affiliates. Consider the following quotes from such privacy statements:
We may provide your information to our affiliates or to third parties, including our third party service providers and contractors, for purposes related to Site administration and other services.
By completing this form, you also acknowledge that you may also receive other correspondence via email or U.S. mail from our parent company, AMN Healthcare Inc. Your privacy is important to us. Our email and mail list is used only for distribution of our own materials. We do not sell or rent our email list to third parties.
As you can see, like broadcast services, the degree to which your personal contact information gets compromised varies greatly with CEU and career content sites. Nurse.com is a sister company to one of the largest job boards in the world, CareerBuilder. Selling candidate contact information is one of the key revenue streams for such companies. By contrast, American Mobile Network and it’s subsidiaries are employers themselves, so they prefer to keep your contact information to themselves for fear it may reach their competitors.
Each CEU and career content service will have different privacy policies. They will also have different methods for you to opt out or control your privacy settings. And some do not have opt out methods at all. So it’s important to research these issues prior to submitting your information with them if you want to keep your personal information private.
How job boards compromise a nurse’s privacy
Job boards represent another potential pitfall for nurses who wish to keep their personal information private. Again, privacy policies vary greatly from one job board to another. And there are so many job boards that covering them all would be impossible. However, there are a couple of overarching themes to be aware of.
First, job boards almost never guarantee that only prospective employers will have access to the data you enter in their databases. In other words, they don’t have a fool-proof method for verifying that their customers are legitimate. That means the data you enter into a job board could potentially be captured by anyone and used for any purpose. So a “lead generator” could search the job board database for Registered Nurses, dump the results into their own database, and then sell the data to whomever is willing to pay for it. Consider the following statement which is typical of many job boards:
Information you share in public areas of Monster or place in the searchable resume database may be accessed, used, and stored by others around the world. We strive to provide a safe, secure environment by attempting to limit access to our database to legitimate users, but we cannot guarantee that unauthorized parties will not gain access. We also cannot control how authorized users store or transfer information you give to us, so you should not post sensitive information to Monster.
How can you protect your privacy as a travel nurse?
Review Privacy Policies
Each of the preceding cases is different. In some cases, you’ll have some power to protect your privacy and in others you’ll have no power at all. So be sure to review the privacy policies in order to make sure you know what you’re in for.
Set Up Google Voice or Another Forwarding Service
If you feel that you want to use these services, or are forced to use them, then there are a couple of steps you can take to protect your personal contact information. First, you can set up a free Google Voice account and have it transferred to your personal mobile telephone number. This is super easy to do and it’s all free.
This way, you can provide a working telephone number that isn’t your primary number. You can set it up to forward calls, or stop it from forwarding calls to your primary number. If you ever want to change your Google Voice number, then there is a $10 fee which is probably easier and cheaper than changing your primary mobile number in order to get away from the spammy phone calls.
Set Up a Travel Nursing Email Address
It’s no secret that travelers prefer to be contacted via email. However, you might not want to be contacted via your personal email account. Remember, this email address will most likely be sold down the line for years to come. Therefore, simply set up a Yahoo or Gmail account specifically for travel nursing purposes.
Use Services That Don’t Sell Your Contact Information
More importantly, nurses can make use of newer, innovative services with business models that rely on maintaining member privacy to flourish. You see, most of the preceding services are based on selling your personal information to make a buck. This is very much a “Web 1.0” business model. But Web 2.0 ushered in an era of social networks and bi-directional communication which facilitate business models that thrive on protecting your personal data.