When, Why, and How to Determine Travel Nursing Company – Hospital Relationships

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We discussed the two main categories of hospital-travel nursing company relationships in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Remember, agencies can have a direct relationship with a hospital whereby their representatives have direct communication with the hospital’s representatives. Or, agencies can go through a middleman commonly referred to as a Vendor Management System whereby every agency that does business with the hospital must go through the same middleman. Or, the hospital can utilize a Managed Service Provider which is a healthcare staffing company that holds an exclusive contract with the hospital and sub-contracts out to other agencies.

The relationship an agency has with a hospital can ultimately affect the traveler. In most cases, a direct relationship is best for the agency and traveler. Again, this is because there are direct lines of communication between the hospital and agency and no chance of a middleman charging fees that could eat into the amount the agency has pay the traveler.

As a result travelers may want to find the best travel nursing agency to work with at any given hospital based the hospital-agency relationship. In most cases, this will be an agency that has a direct relationship with the hospital. However, determining this information can be difficult. It could potentially take hours of your time. If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend countless hours with minutia only to achieve limited benefits. So, when and how do you try to determine hospital-agency relationships?

Narrow VS Broad Travel Nursing Job Search

There are two scenarios in which you may want to attempt to determine the hospital-agency relationship. The first is when you have a narrow travel nursing job search. And the broader your job search is, the less you should try. This is because it’s much easier to determine the exact relationship scenario occurring with one hospital, or with all the hospitals in a given city, versus finding out the exact relationship scenario for all the hospitals in a given state, or across several states.

Always try to find out if there is a Travel Nursing Company MSP

Second, you should always be at least interested in whether or not a Managed Service Provider (MSP) relationship exists for a hospital that you’re considering. Again, this is especially true if you’re interested in working at a particular hospital, or even in a particular city. Why? Because a Managed Service Provider is a healthcare staffing agency and  it’s highly likely that the MSP’s candidates get preferential treatment. If you know that there is an MSP, then you can at least contact the MSP to find out the pay package they offer and compare it to your agency and/or a subcontractor or two to determine who has the better overall combination of pay and service, and then make a decision as to which agency is best for you.

How to Find the Hospital-Agency Relationship

There are many ways of determining hospital-agency relationships. The easiest way is to ask the agencies you speak with. If you’re targeting a specific hospital or city, then you should ask agencies if they work with the particular hospital, or which hospitals they work with in a particular city. And you can always ask what type of relationship a agency have with a given hospital. Ask if the hospital uses an MSP or VMS. And ask if the agency has many travel nurses at the hospital, or if they’ve had many there in the past.

The sad thing is that your travel nurse recruiter may not know what any of this means. If your recruiter is unable to answer your questions, then you should first try to determine if the hospital in question is independent or part of a larger organization. This is because MSP relationships typically exist for the entire hospital organization rather than just one hospital within the organization. For example, Kaiser Permanente in California uses American Mobile Network (AMN) as its MSP, and the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) uses Parallon (formerly All About Staffing) as its MSP. In fact, Parallon is actually a subsidiary of HCA. The first indication that the hospital is part of a larger organization can be the name. For example, Kaiser San Francisco is obviously a Kaiser hospital. If the name isn’t an indication, then you can also check the hospital’s web site where you should find reference to its affiliations.

Once you’ve determined if the hospital is independent or part of a larger organization, you can begin with an internet search to see if you can determine a hospital-agency relationship. If the hospital is independent, you can search using the hospital’s name. If the hospital is part of a larger organization, you can search using the organization’s name.

You may find that other travel nurses have written about their experience on a message board which may give an indication regarding a hospital-agency relationship. For example, a travel nurse may write that they had to go through an AMN representative to get a Kaiser contract, which would be an indication that an MSP relationship exists. A travel nurse may also write that they worked at a particular hospital through a particular agency. You can contact that agency and inquire about the relationship status with that particular hospital. You may also find articles written by an industry organization, business journal, or local news agency that highlights a hospital-agency relationship.

If you’re still unable to determine the hospital-agency relationship prior to being submitted for an assignment, then you can look for clues during the process. For example, you may have to schedule an interview with someone from the MSP. This is because interviewing and screening services are part of what the MSP offers the facility. Typically, your travel  nursing agency will submit your profile to the MSP and a representative from the MSP will contact you to either ask some preliminary questions, or schedule an interview with one of the MSP’s clinical interviewers, or both. This is a dead give-away that there is an MSP.

Furthermore, if you’re interested in specific hospitals and all else has failed, then you can try contacting the hospitals directly to try to determine if there is an MSP or even if the hospital would recommend a particular agency. I’m not going to lie, some hospitals don’t like this. But you can call the facility, ask for the staffing office, then ask for someone who handles contracts (or PRN staffing), then ask which agency or agencies they would recommend. You may have a difficult time getting to the right person, but if you’re persistent, you’ll succeed.

Closing Thoughts

Hospitals want highly qualified travel nurses at the best price and they want them now. Hospitals must typically fill their jobs quickly no matter the reason for the need. Working with a few agencies typically doesn’t cut it, so hospitals have to work with more and more agencies to get their needs met. But managing all of these agencies becomes exceedingly difficult. Vendor Management Services saw this as a business opportunity and are now utilized by over 90% of all hospitals in America.

Knowing about the different relationships that exist between agencies and their client hospitals is useful in a general sense even if you find yourself unable to put it to use in a practical sense. Having read this three part series, you may know more about how the industry works than many recruiters. This alone will help you have informed conversations with your recruiters which will let them know they’re not dealing with a rookie. This can be beneficial in negotiations and it can have a positive impact on the service you receive.

Moreover, you’ll be better prepared to navigate the system. You’ll understand that the level of competition is high because Vendor Management Services allow hospitals to efficiently utilize far more agencies which results in more candidates. You’ll also understand that there’s a gatekeeper between your agency and the hospital which tends to complicate communication between the two. You’ll find that all of this knowledge will come in handy at different points throughout the process, helping you to realize a better travel nursing experience.

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