What Every Travel Nurse Ought to Know about Frictional Unemployment

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Travel nursing jobs are short term engagements typically lasting no more than 13 weeks. So it’s no secret that travel nurses engage in job searches more often than the average professional. What’s less understood is that certain realities in the travel nursing industry tend to exacerbate what labor economists refer to as “frictional unemployment.” In this blog post, we’ll discuss frictional unemployment, how it affects travel nurses, and how travel nurses can remedy the situation and save themselves time, trouble and money in the process.

What is “Frictional Unemployment?”

Investopedia defines frictional unemployment as follows:

Unemployment that is always present in the economy, resulting from temporary transitions made by workers and employers or from workers and employers having inconsistent or incomplete information.

As you can see, one of the primary components of frictional unemployment involves “temporary transitions made by workers and employers.” There are many forms of “temporary transition.” For example, a worker may leave the workforce to update their skills in order to meet the demands of a changing labor market. However, temporary transitions can also be as simple as a worker moving from one job to the next.

The other primary component of frictional unemployment involves “workers and employers having inconsistent or incomplete information.” Again, there are many scenarios pertaining to “incomplete information.” For example, an employer may give up on hiring because they incorrectly believe that the skill sets they’re seeking do not exist in the current labor market when in fact they do. Or, a worker may stay unemployed simply because they lack the information or resources to find their ideal job match despite the fact that the ideal job match is indeed available.

Frictional unemployment and travel nurses

More Transitions Means More Friction

So how does frictional unemployment effect travel nurses differently than other professionals? The obvious answer is that travelers make more “temporary transitions” than other professionals. As mentioned above, travel contracts typically last less than 13 weeks. Contract extensions are frequently offered and they’re the most convenient option for maintaining continuous employment. However, travelers aren’t always able or willing to accept an extension contract. They may prefer to move on to another location or may need to move on to another location in order to maintain their status as a temporary worker for tax purposes.

Syncing End and Start Dates Not Easy

Moreover, syncing a contract end-date with a new contract start-date is very challenging. Obviously, different hospitals don’t sync their start and end dates with one another. Moreover, there is often travel time involved with getting to the new destination that necessitates taking some time off between contracts. In any case, travelers experience “temporary transitions” much more than the average professional.

The Prevalence of Inconsistent and  Incomplete Information

In addition to increased temporary transitions, travel nurses also face a host of unique circumstances related to “inconsistent or incomplete information.” Unlike normal job searches, travel nursing job searches must involve staffing agencies. In this regard, travelers frequently have difficulty finding agencies that have contracts in their desired destinations.

Limited Access to the Travel Nursing Job Market

Moreover, travelers typically work with only a small number of agencies due to paperwork and organizational constraints. Different agencies have contracts with different hospitals and no single agency has contracts with every hospital in any given area. As a result, traveling nurses lack access to, and information on, the entire travel job market at any given time.

The Problem with Job Boards

To address these issues, many turn to job boards to track down their ideal job opportunities. However, travel job postings are frequently outdated due to technological constraints experienced by agencies. Essentially, agencies receive job requisitions from many different sources in many different formats. Getting all these jobs centralized and formatted similarly is extremely challenging and expensive. Even the biggest agencies struggle with job order management. As a result, job postings are often outdated or sometimes used as advertising techniques for the purpose of attracting potential candidates.

Agencies Lack Information on Available Travel Nurses

Agencies also experience problems related to inconsistent and incomplete information as well. For example, agencies constantly lack information on the availability of travel nurses at any given time. So an agency may have the exact assignment that many candidates are seeking, but the agency is unaware that the candidates exist or are looking for the assignment.

All this friction effects the bottom line for both travelers and agencies. Travel nurses frequently go longer than they’d like without work, thereby reducing their total annual income. Agencies frequently have jobs open much longer than they need to be, thereby reducing the agency’s total annual billable hours.

How can travel nurses overcome frictional unemployment?

Work with More Travel Nursing Agencies

There are several steps that you can take to overcome the fallout of frictional unemployment in the travel nursing job market. First, you can increase the number of agencies you work with. More agencies means access to more hospitals. This will ensure that you have more consistent and complete information on the job market.

Control Your own Travel Nursing Documentation

Until recently, the paperwork burden made working with more than 4-5 agencies nearly impossible. You would be forced to complete an application and skills checklist for every agency. Now, BluePipes provides you with the ability to reduce the paperwork burden by controlling their own application, resume, and skills checklist. These documents are all that agencies need to get candidates submitted for open assignments. So this service removes the upfront paperwork burden involved when working with new companies.

Broadcast Your Availability

Second, you can effectively communicate your availability for jobs. You can start by letting the agencies you’re working with know about your future assignment plans. You can also advertise their future plans to agencies you’re not currently working with. By doing so, you will provide agencies with more consistent and complete information about the pool of available workers.

To accomplish this, you can utilize the BluePipes availability feature. The BluePipes availability feature allows you to record details about your availability for future or current assignments. Once recorded, you can update recruiters in two ways.

First, you can connect with recruiters through the BluePipes professional networking platform. Once connected, you will be able to conveniently send messages to your recruiters letting them know about your updated availability report. Recruiters can then visit your profile to view the report.

Second, you can make your availability report publicly available. By doing so, recruiters that aren’t connected with you will be able to search for and view the availability report. In both cases, recruiters can view the availability report, search their own systems for potential job matches, and communicate the options through the BluePipes network.

By working with more agencies and communicating their availability in advance, you can successfully solve the frictional unemployment issues travel nurses face. This will ensure that they land the most ideal jobs quickly and efficiently, face fewer employment gaps and increase their annual income.

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