Tips for Managing Travel Nursing References

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References are the third and final component of the standard submission profile required to be considered for a travel nursing job. Again, it’s possible that certain hospitals require more, but the vast majority of hospitals will require a job application, skills checklist, and references. Together, these items make up a travel nurse’s submission profile. As a result, maintaining your references is extremely important. It’s also important for seeking permanent nursing jobs so these tips will come in handy during your permanent job searches as well.

Requirements for Travel Nursing References

Every facility has its own requirements regarding references. The standard requirement is: 2 supervisory clinical references covering 1 year within the previous three years in the specialty applied for. Let’s examine exactly what this means beginning with “2 supervisory”. Hospitals will typically accept references from anyone who served in a supervisory role with the candidate. This means anyone who was a Charge Nurse or higher on the management ladder.

Next, let’s take a look at what they mean by “clinical references.” A clinical reference is one that will attest to the candidate’s clinical skills as opposed to simply verifying the candidate’s dates of employment. Finally, let’s look at what they mean by “covering 1 year within the previous three years in the specialty applied for.” This means that the references must combine to cover at least 1 year of experience within the past 3 years. For example, if you worked with one reference for 3 months and another reference for 6 months, then that’s only 9 months total. You’d need another reference covering 3 months or more to bring it up to the 1 year requirement.  It’s important to point out that the best facilities typically have the most stringent requirements for references. For example, some facilities will not accept a candidate without a reference from the candidate’s most recent Unit Manager.

Let’s also examine what typically doesn’t qualify as a reference. First, co-workers do not qualify as references unless they were in a supervisory role. The reference checker will ask for the role of the reference and in what capacity the reference and candidate functioned together. Second, agency references are typically not accepted for travel jobs. This includes travel nurse recruiters. This is because agencies are unable to provide clinical references. They are unable to attest to the candidate’s clinical skills because they are unqualified to do so and/or they did not work directly with the candidate.

Oddly enough, many hospitals seem perfectly content to accept agency references for permanent jobs. I know this because I’ve provided references for many of my clients during their permanent job search. Again, as a recruiter, I was unable to provide a clinical assessment, but hospitals don’t seem to care as much when it comes to potential permanent employees. Perhaps they still seek out clinical references and don’t value the reference I provide as highly as they do the clinical references.

In any case, solid references can be the differentiating factor in determining which candidate lands the job, or permanent nursing job for that matter. I’ve heard many travelers convey their belief that references are never really contacted for jobs anyway and therefore aren’t important. This is incorrect. Hospitals require that references be contacted by companies in an effort to vet all  candidates. In addition, hospitals require a report of the questions asked of the reference and the answers provided by the references.

If a company, or recruiter, decides not to do this then they are abrogating their responsibilities and ultimately lying. I’ve worked with recruiters on many occasions who took it upon themselves to submit falsified references. In one instance, a traveler ended up making serious medication errors that resulted in termination at which point the hospital contacted the references and found out that the references provided by the recruiter were falsified. On another occasion, the hospital checked references as part of their routine quality assurance measures to find that a candidate’s references were falsified by the recruiter. These recruiters were dismissed on both occasions.For this reason, many agencies give the responsibility of checking references to someone other than the recruiter.

How to Obtain Good Travel Nursing References

Now, the problem with obtaining references is that while facilities require references, they also prohibit their employees from providing them. There are several approaches to solving this 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 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 none the less. 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 it’s important to request permission from your references before putting them down on an application, or any job application for that matter.

You’ll also want to try to develop close personal relationships with your supervisory coworkers. However, developing this level of relationship when you’re a travel nurse can be very difficult. You’re most likely going to be there for only 13 to 26 weeks. If you are unable to develop these close relationships, then you can utilize an Evaluation Form.

Typically, the contract between the company and the hospital will require that the hospital provide the company with evaluations for their travelers. You can ask your recruiter to provide you with a copy of this evaluation for your records. This will probably work for about half of your travel 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 for their travel nurses 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 recruiter for an evaluation form, or you can find one on the internet. If you’re unable to find one, try sending me an email, and I’ll try to get one to you.

In any case, you’ll want to be sure that you have copies of these evaluations 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 engage in travel nursing for a period of one or more years, then you’ll most certainly need these evaluations when applying for permanent nursing jobs.

It’ll be very unlikely that you’ll be able to rely on conversational references because the references will most likely not remember you. This is where written evaluations can help. When the reference checker for a permanent employer calls to check your travel nursing job references, these evaluation forms will ensure that all goes smoothly and the reference doesn’t forget who you are. The forms can be faxed to the reference for verification and to jar their memory.

BluePipes can also be a very valuable tool in helping you manage your references. As a professional networking service dedicated to healthcare professionals, BluePipes allows members to invite and connect with their colleagues. So the platform is a great way to organize and stay in contact with your references.

The BluePipes profile builder allows members to add references for each job they enter into the profile work history. Again, this feature is great for organizational purposes. And unlike other professional networking services, your references are private and can be seen only by you. They are also added to your BluePipes job application if/when you choose to render your BluePipes profile as a job application. This is very useful for travel nurses as it helps them reduce the amount of paperwork they submit to companies. Travel nurses can simply render their profile to PDF as a job application and email it to companies at their convenience.

As always, please share your experiences, questions, and comments below.

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