In the travel healthcare industry, the Travelers Conference has been a momentum generating machine for years and TRS Healthcare has been proud to be a part of it. If you were to ask us why though, the answer might not be what you’d expect. It’s not about the networking, the leads, the education or the parties. Not even close. It all has to do with our origins and how the woman behind TRS set the standard for taking care of her staff, healthcare travelers and in-house team alike.
How TRS Healthcare Began
TRS Healthcare is in its 21st year in 2017 and our company began humbly. Diana Wright, RN, our founder and President, was an ICU nurse in Arkansas and was also working some Per Diem shifts across the border in Oklahoma. Like any nurse, she stood out for her compassion and work ethic and as she began talking to her colleagues about her hectic schedule, people began approaching her about helping to schedule some extra shifts for them as well.
Diana did so, coordinating nurses and filling scheduling holes in the hospitals in which she worked. If one of her friends had to cancel a shift, Diana would show up to replace them. Soon she began staffing more than she was working the floor and a per diem staffing company was born.
Positively Impacting Healthcare Wages in Arkansas
Noticing the wage gap in Arkansas, Diana challenged her hometown facilities to pay the nurses what they were worth or at least comparable to what healthcare professionals were making in Oklahoma. The facilities laughed at her and said they didn’t need to do that and if nurses wanted to make more money, then they should go to Oklahoma and work.
Diana took every nurse she could from Arkansas and assisted them gaining licensure in Oklahoma. She then sent them to work there simultaneously and caused a nursing shortage in Arkansas. Diana, cognizant of patient care, reached out immediately and negotiated a fair wage increase for her travelers. She then sent over her Oklahoma nurses she had quietly been getting licensed in Arkansas to save the day. Knowing how hard she had fought for them, Diana has been a hero to regional nurses ever since.
Building the Team at TRS Healthcare
Working from a tiny room with a rolodex, a phone book, a dot-matrix printer and corded phones, Diana began to staff her own fledgling company. She found Robin Clark working as a Certified Nursing Assistant and asked her to come aboard. Robin is celebrating her 20th year with the company now.
Diana also hired Virginia Johnson on as a Recruiter. Diana once told me that she ran into Virginia on the weekend at a restaurant in town. This wasn’t a situation where two coworkers waved in passing as they dined with their loved ones, however; Virginia was working as a waitress to make extra money for her family. Diana told me that she went home and cried that night because she felt disheartened that the company wasn’t making enough money for her to pay her staff more. Diana promised Virginia that if she would believe in her and TRS Healthcare, she would ensure Virginia never needed a second job. Virginia is celebrating her 18th year with TRS this year.
TRS Healthcare Navigating the Recession
Over the course of two decades, TRS Healthcare has weathered the storms of economic downturn right alongside our travelers. I still hear stories today about how travel nurses would be making huge weekly paychecks, with an abundance of jobs available and facilities that would book contracts 6 months out or further, just to lock in a high-quality nurse. Fast forward to 2008 when the housing market dragged the economy down and everything turned to chaos in the travel industry. Facilities tightened their belts and wouldn’t take on travelers, staffing companies went out of business and travelers began working as core staff nurses making 1/3 of their former income, just to have a steady paycheck.
The travel industry was in shambles, with 10 nurses to every one available position. At TRS Healthcare, there was stress and tension as everyone worried what this meant for the business, and even the industry in general. Diana spoke to the staff, told them that she had planned for this eventuality and that TRS was debt-free and economically viable. She promised them that if they chose to stay with her, she would make sure they had a job with her and that their families would have food on their tables. David Wright, CFO of TRS Healthcare and Diana’s husband, told me once that Diana would go home and agonize about how to provide for not just her employees but also all the people who relied upon those people. Diana took it very personally. And she was up to the challenge.
BluePipes: Professional Networking and Career Management Tools for Healthcare Professionals
Difficult Diagnosis for Founder of TRS Healthcare
In 2012, as the travel nursing industry began to find its footing and as the nurses came back to the road, salaries for travelers were miserably low. Diana kept fighting for the nurses, pushing for higher bill rates and benefits for her nurses. During this time, while working 60 to 80 hours a week, Diana was given some shocking news; she had stage 4 cancer and was given a few months to live. TRS Healthcare was devastated. Staff members were in tears, not because they worried about their jobs but because someone they respected and loved was given a death sentence by the very medical establishment that she had served for countless years.
Diana chose her successor, Taylor Faught, and spent every waking moment grooming him to take over her role as CEO. She focused her time and energy on her company, her child, ensuring that it would live on, strong and successful, long after she was gone. One of Diana’s Recruiters, Jan Steele, RN, had been doing her own diligent preparation and brought Diana her research on an experimental treatment abroad. Diana packed her bags, said a tearful farewell to her friends and family and was off to see if holistic options could keep her in the world, could keep her in the fight. No one knew if she would ever walk through the doors of TRS Healthcare again.
Perseverance and New Beginnings at TRS Healthcare
It was soon after this time that I began my employment at TRS. The staff were friendly and talkative and they spoke in reverent tones about Diana Wright. After months of hearing of this mythic figure, this larger than life woman, I finally got the chance to meet her. No, not at her funeral but at her triumphant return. Diana looked exhausted but you could see the joy on her face as she embraced each person who waited for a moment with her personally. Tears flowed but laughter now echoed through a building that had been pervaded with sadness and worry for months.
As I met Diana, I told her that I had never before seen such loyalty and love for an employer and that I was honored to be a part of something that mattered so much to so many. Diana hugged me too. A warm, welcoming hug. A strong embrace from a strong woman.
Today, Diana continues to be in the office and retains her role as President of TRS Healthcare. Taylor continues to expertly drive the company toward success as CEO, bearing the burdens of leadership and the inheritance of Diana’s legacy. His expert guidance has given Diana the peace of mind to pursue her original passion of caring for people; she assists in helping people explore options when dealing with their own cancer diagnoses. She does this because she loves people and she accepts no money for her hard work.
Recognizing the Travel Healthcare Community
If someone were to ask me why we are a sponsor of the Travelers Conference, I would say with full confidence that TRS Healthcare does so because the attendees are our people. Our company began with a focus on taking care of the people who take care of others and we continue to strongly adhere to that mission statement. It was an ICU nurse that began the journey down the road we still walk today.
I’d like to invite you to visit our booth (#219) at TravCon and spend some time speaking with us. I want you to attend our after-party where we can have a more in-depth discussion about how we celebrate and support our nurses. You can judge for yourself if all companies are created equal or if there are some who operate differently from all others.
The RN’s, the LPN’s, the CNA’s. The Surg Tech’s, the RT’s, the OT’s. The PT’s, the PA’s, the NP’s. These Travelers Conference goers are the superheroes of our society, the few that have dedicated their lives to comforting others, who have devoted all they have to restoring the lives of those in need. They go where they are needed most, they give their hearts and souls to their work because their patients’ lives hang in the balance. They bear the emotional burden and the strain of those who rely on them because they are strong enough to do it.
To us, they are each Diana Wright.
Frank Whalen joined TRS Healthcare in 2012. He was a recruiter for years before taking over Marketing for the company. Frank currently handles our Digital/Online/Social/Programmatic Media Marketing and writes our blogs. He also has the title of Experience Advocate, a position we created to allow our travelers to have someone at their disposal who would ensure their travel assignment is enjoyable and beneficial. Prior to his time here at TRS Healthcare, Frank was a radio talk show host for over 18 years, with a daily listening audience of over 10 million people. Frank and Caleb English, our Chief Operating Officer, hosted a travel healthcare podcast back from 2014 to 2015.