Hey everyone! Welcome to The Truth About Travel Nursing Podcast. This is Kyle Schmidt and I’m your host. Thank you so very much for joining us for episode 29 of the podcast. In this episode, we’re going to discuss 14 things that travel nursing recruiters and agencies do that tend to betray the trust of travel nurses. [ Please note: This is the transcript of a Podcast. As such, it is not edited as written content. ]
Now, there are many layers to this topic. Recruiters sometimes don’t know that some of the actions they take, or don’t take for that matter, can betray the trust of the travelers they work with. In this case, we hope to shed some light for recruiters so they can avoid these issues or develop alternatives for them.
Meanwhile, travelers are often baffled or caught off-guard by some of these actions. And that’s understandable of course. However, sometimes there are really good reasons for recruiters to do the things they do and if travelers just knew what those reasons were, then perhaps these actions wouldn’t seem so shady and underhanded.
That said, some of the issues that we’ll discuss don’t really have a legitimate explanation or excuse. In that case, it’s really important for travelers to know about the issues so they can ask the right questions, make attempts to avoid these issues or at least plan in advance.
Now, I wrote about blog post about this same exact topic and it was really popular. It got shared and talked about on social media quite a bit. We’ll link to that blog post in the show notes because there might be some additional helpful information in there. Because, while the topic is the same, the content may not be. I’m sort of shooting from the hip on the podcast and the blog post was planned out. So check it out if you’re interested. Again, we’ll link to it in the show notes.
1) Being Submitted For a Travel Nursing Job Without Approval
Okay, so let’s start off with one of the bigger and more common issues that you’ll encounter as a traveler. Item number one on our list is when recruiters submit a travel nurse for a job without the travel nurse’s permission. Essentially, the recruiter will submit the traveler for the job without speaking with them first.
You know, I think this happens much more often than travel nurses realize. I mean, just because you get submitted for an assignment doesn’t mean you’re going to get an interview. So you could be getting submitted for jobs and never even know it.
As an example, I remember one time during the holiday season, the Managed Service Provider for one of the major hospital systems, a huge user of travel nurses, released over 1,500 job orders to sub-vendors. The very next day, less than 24 hours later in fact, the account manager for the Managed Service Provider sent out an email saying that he had received over 1,700 submissions for the jobs and that over 500 of them were duplicates, or profiles for candidates that were submitted by more than one agency.
I mean, the only way that this is possible is if recruiters were simply submitting profiles without speaking with their travelers first. This is one of the reasons that I sort of chuckle when I hear recruiters tell travelers that it’s really bad for travelers to be submitted by multiple agencies for the same job. You know, they say hospitals frown on this and it will get you disqualified from consideration.
The funny thing is that this is really only possible if the recruiters are submitting the travelers without their approval. It’s not like the traveler is going to talk to one recruiter and give them the approval to submit them and then talk to another recruiter about the same job and also given them the approval to submit them for the job. I mean, at the very least, the travelers would let the second recruiter know that they were already submitted for the job. It’s recruiters that ultimately cause this problem.
That said, it’s important to point out that most hospitals and vendor managers have a protocol in place for dealing with this, and it rarely involves disqualification. Instead, they’ll require that the traveler work with the agency that was first to submit them, or they’ll simply ask the traveler during the interview which agency they want to work with.
Anyway, why does this happen? Why do recruiters do this? There are several reasons actually, some of them legitimate, others not so much. One legitimate reason is that recruiters sometimes think they have the traveler’s permission to submit them for the job. You see, recruiters almost always want to get your approval in advance. That’s because they know that competition for open jobs can be fierce and the more time that passes before you get submitted, the less your chances of landing the job.
So, recruiters will try to work through as many of the details about potential jobs as they possibly can in order to get your advanced approval. Now, if they’re doing their job right, then they’ll make it really clear that this is happening. But sometimes it isn’t clear to the traveler, but the recruiter thinks it was.
Now the illegitimate reasons include things like, the recruiter wanted to pad their submission stats for the week, or the recruiter thought maybe they would submit you first and then call to get your approval and if you didn’t approve then they’d withdraw your submission and there are many others.
Look, I understand the reasons that recruiters do this. There is a major sense of urgency to get candidates submitted at a healthcare staffing agency. But this is never justified. It really is one of those issues that’s more trouble than it’s worth. The rates haven’t been worked out so the traveler can decline the position based on pay; the traveler could get surprised by the interview call, be totally unprepared and bomb the interview, they could get submitted by another agency. I mean it’s just not worth it.
So recruiters shouldn’t be doing this. And for travelers, well, you should be clear with your recruiters that they aren’t to submit unless they have received your clear and unquestioned approval to do so. Now, that said, it’s still possible to give recruiters an advanced approval to submit you for certain assignments. We discussed this in detail in episode 9. Again, the advantage is that you increase your chances of landing the job.
2) Leading Travel Nurses On About Job Opportunities
Okay, so the second action that recruiters take that tends to compromise the trust of their travelers is leading them on when it comes to the job search process. Here is a quote I pulled from a travel nursing forum that illustrates the problem:
Quote: My agency has also submitted me to 4 other hospitals, 2 weeks ago, and I still have not heard. I have been following up with my recruiter and apparently my profile hasn’t been rejected yet… but still pending as well. Unquote
Now, I know it’s possible for the hiring process to drag on for a couple of weeks. However, the chances of landing the assignment after a week or two without an interview is really, really slim. And if this happens over and over with the same recruiter, then it’s understandable for travelers to be suspicious of what’s going on. Is the recruiter just making up fake jobs and not even submitting you? Are they leading you on to keep you on the hook and away from working with other agencies until they have a real job that opens up? It’s understandable to wonder about these things.
And this is why it’s so important for recruiters to set proper expectations when it comes to the job search process. They need to let travelers know how long a job has been open before the traveler was submitted for it. They need to let them know that the more time that passes, the less their chances are of landing the job.
And personally, I think it’s good for recruiters to let travelers know about their position in the markets that the traveler is interested in. For example, if the traveler is interested in the Denver area, then the recruiter should let them know which hospitals their agency contracts with so the traveler can try and find agencies that work with the other hospitals in the area. I know this probably sounds crazy for recruiters, but I did this and had a lot of success as a recruiter so I’m certain it can work.
Now, there are some things that travelers can do as well. You can ask recruiters about all of this. Ask them how long the job has been open when they submit you. Ask them what their relationship is with the hospital. We discussed company/hospital relationships in episode 5, so check that out for more detail on this subject. You can also ask recruiters which hospitals they work with in the area you’re interested in going.
3) Communicating After Travel Nursing Paperwork Is Completed
Okay, so the third issue that compromises the trust of travelers is when recruiters don’t communicate promptly after paperwork has been completed. And this is one that I have never understood. Again, I’m going to share a quote from a travel nursing forum to illustrate. In this forum thread, the travelers are talking about a travel nursing website and one of them says:
Quote: I have had a recruiter contact me already on this site and have heard nothing from that company as well, not even a hello phone call after the application was done online.
Now, you may be wondering why the traveler doesn’t just call the agency. And fair enough, they could just call the agency. But make no bones about it, the recruiter almost certainly receives a notification when a traveler completes an online application, so there is no viable reason for the recruiter not to call the traveler.
If the traveler has taken the time to complete the initial paperwork, then the recruiter should contact them ASAP. It should be a priority. Even if the candidate isn’t qualified or the recruiter has no jobs available for them, the call should be made to let the traveler know that.
It’s totally understandable for travelers to get frustrated by this and ultimately wonder if the recruiter is a deadbeat. I mean, can this recruiter be trusted as a reliable ally who is able to put in the hard work required to be a successful recruiter? Maybe not if they can’t even call you when you’ve completed the paperwork they asked for.
4) Offering A Low Taxable Wage To Travel Nurses
The 4th issue that we’re going to discuss here is when recruiters and agencies offer really low taxable hourly wages so they can pump up the tax-free stipends and avoid the payroll costs associated with the taxable pay. We’ve discussed this at length in many other episodes including episode 28. Basically, the IRS requires that employees be paid a taxable wage that is in line with what the professional could reasonably expect to make without tax-free stipends. When agencies pay less, it is indeed a red flag for the IRS. The agency might get audited and all the travelers they worked with will get drug into the audit.
Now, 7 to 10 years ago, this fact wasn’t as well-known as it is today. So agencies actually had an excuse; they simply didn’t know any better. But it’s now very well-known to the point that it’s fair to question the character and trustworthiness of any agency that engages in this practice.
And agencies need to know that travelers are out there talking about it. Here is a quote from a travel nursing forum:
Quote: The second agency has attempted to submit me to two but the hourly pay was $10. And when I questioned this, I was told it was okay and nothing to worry about, despite feeling this was not right and posting on here and getting the same response. Unquote
So, travelers are talking about this issue and they know what’s acceptable and what’s not. It’s time for agencies that aren’t playing by the rules to start playing them. Otherwise, you’ll be viewed as untrustworthy.
5) Curve-balls In The Contract
Okay, so the fifth issue we’re going to look at is what I refer to as travel nursing contract curve-balls. Now, this encompasses a whole host of issues, but basically what we’re talking about here is when the traveler finds out some odd little contract stipulation after it’s too late. Here are a couple of quotes from a travel nursing forum that illustrate what I’m talking about:
Quote: Are there any companies that do not provide the housing stipend for the first week of orientation for travel contracts? I just switched to a new company, received my first check yesterday which did not have the stipend. They said they do not provide the stipend during orientation which is not mentioned anywhere in my contract. Unquote
And the second one is:
Quote: The hospital I am currently at has been down-staffing 4-5 RNs each night and I am just waiting for me to be next:( Its in my contract I can only be cancelled 2 shifts but here’s the thing…My recruiter said A: not only do I not get paid for the those 12hrs so miss out on that money but also B: I have to pay the company 30$ an hour for the hours unless I make it up!!! Kind of mad about that.. That’s 360 I owe them plus I don’t get paid (which is understandable because obviously I didn’t work)..Is it like this with all companies? Unquote
Now, I’m sure there are reasons that both of these contract clauses exist, but this episode isn’t about those issues. The point here is that the travelers weren’t aware of the issues or they weren’t aware of the potential ramifications. So, when they find out, they’re understandably suspicious and their trust for the recruiter and the agency is potentially diminished.
Now, I know there are a lot of folks out there who will say, “Well, it was in the contract, so it’s your fault for signing it!” Well, sometimes it’s not in the contract as illustrated by the second quote. And even if it is, that’s the kind of attitude that results in people thinking you’re untrustworthy.
I agree that travelers should review their contracts carefully. I totally understand that. But agencies and recruiters need to go out of their way to explain certain aspects of their contracts and the potential ramifications if, and I stress IF, they want to be viewed as trustworthy. I mean, if you’re comfortable putting these stipulations in your contract, then you should be comfortable discussing them without being asked to do so. That said, as travelers, you really do need to review the contracts carefully and make sure to get everything clarified.
6) Pressuring To Submit Without Travel Nursing Job Details
Okay, so the sixth issue that compromises the trust of travelers is when recruiters press really hard for the traveler to agree to be submitted without providing any of the details about the job in question. Again, here is a quote from a forum:
Quote: Anybody familiar with Swedish Hospital in Seattle? The recruiter mostly bragged about what a great deal the facility is and a sweet relocation package. He couldn’t even tell me the details of the benefits and base pay except that everything is great and I sound like I have a great personality… Hmm?? Unquote
Hmmmm…is right. I mean, there is a basic set of information that recruiters should be able to provide about the jobs they’re pitching, the pay package, the shift, the unit, the start date, number of hours per week. They should also be able to provide at least a basic description of the facility in question, number of beds in the facility, location, is it a trauma hospital, or a teaching hospital, or possibly some other basics. If the agency doesn’t have a basic description in their database, then the recruiter can simply look on the facility’s website or on a website like the American Hospital Directory.
Of course, you could do that to, but that’s what recruiters get paid for. The point is that it’s fair to question the trustworthiness of a recruiter when they pressure you to take a job but aren’t able to provide any details. Does that recruiter have your best interests at heart? Are they a hard-worker who goes the extra mile to provide great service? Probably not if they’re not willing or able to provide the basics about a job.
The point is that recruiters should always be ready to discuss these sorts of things before pressing someone to be submitted.
7) Keeping Bill Rates For Travel Nursing Jobs A Secret
Now, the seventh issue that compromises the trust of travel nurses is that the bill rates for travel nursing jobs are not public. For the most part, they’re kept private. Here’s a quote from a forum to illustrate:
Quote: So question for recruiters! Why is the bill rate so secretive?? I feel like we are all professionals and we nurses are the ones working the shifts (taking care of the patients) then we are low balled and have to negotiate over a secretive amount of money. Why not be open and say this is the amount of money total and this is our cut and this is what is left for you…Unquote.
Many travelers think that agencies are shady for not publicizing the bill rates they charge hospitals. I mean, it makes sense on the surface. Travelers would certainly receive more clarity about their pay packages if they knew what the bill rates were. All questions would be removed.
But you know what? The same could be said of any employer in any industry. At the end of the day, this is how businesses in general work. When you go to get a permanent job, the employer doesn’t lay out for you how much revenue your position generates and how much they intend to profit off of your labor. And the travel nursing industry is no different.
Now, you may find some agencies or recruiters who tell you the bill rates, but these are the exception, not the rule. And of course, you don’t really have a surefire way of verifying the bill rates so you’ll just have to trust them. But this doesn’t mean that agencies that don’t publicize their bill rates are shady.
There are tons of good reasons for not publicizing bill rates. For example, agencies compete against one another for business, so they don’t want their competitors to know their bill rates. They don’t want one hospital finding out they charge them more than other hospitals. And so on.
At the end of the day, the best thing that you can do as a traveler is to be a shrewd negotiator. And as I’ve said before, you can pick up a free copy of our eBook on travel nursing pay negotiation by simply signing up for our email list and sharing one of our blog posts. Visit blog.blueepipes.com/negotiate and get your copy. I assure you, it’s very helpful and well worth it.
8) Asking Travel Nurses To Pay For Strange Upfront Costs
Okay, so the eighth issue we’re going to discuss is when agencies ask for travelers to pay for certain things that are just out of the ordinary for travelers to be paying for. Here’s a forum quote to illustrate:
Quote: Starting my new assignment in a week. Lots of paperwork. Is it normal for me to pay to have the background check done? Unquote
The answers in the forum said No, or course not, you shouldn’t be paying for that. So, now this traveler is suspicious of their agency. Now, there are certain things that are quite common for travelers to pay for up front. The cost of a license, or certification, or maybe a titers exam, but paying for background checks is totally uncommon.
There are certain things that agencies are just going to have to pay for. I think one rule of thumb is that anything the traveler is potentially going to get to keep for use on future assignments with other agencies might be charged to the traveler. But the results of a background check are owned outright by the agency. And remember from episode 28 that all these things can be covered by the agency, but the agency is ultimately going to calculate these costs into the pay package in some way, so you always have to compare pay packages properly.
9) Problems With Travel Nursing Bonuses
Okay, so the ninth thing we’re going to discuss is when agencies don’t deliver on the bonuses they promise. There are all kinds of bonuses offered to travelers. We discussed some of them in episode 28. For example, the hospital might offer a bonus for completing the contract, or the agency might offer a bonus for working a certain number of hours, or a referral bonus, and so on.
Agencies need to understand that it’s shady to not pay out these bonuses, even the ones that are offered by hospitals. It’s not the traveler’s job to collect from the hospital; it’s the agency’s job. That’s part of what they’re being paid for. Meanwhile, travelers need to make sure they fully understand the stipulations of the bonuses they’re offered. It’s not fair to smear an agency on social media for not paying a bonus when the qualifications weren’t met.
10) Bullying Travel Nurses
Now, the tenth thing we want to discuss is bullying travelers into accepting jobs. I mean, I don’t even think it’s possible for me to quantify the number of times I’ve heard travelers complain about this in the last 10 years. It happens a lot. Here’s a sample forum quote:
Quote: Is it common practice to be threatened and bullied by a recruiter in regard to taking an assignment?
Bullying often happens when verbal contracts are involved. Recruiters will tell you that you agreed to the contract verbally and there will be a monetary penalty if you don’t complete the assignment. We discussed verbal contracts and why I think they’re just silly when it comes to travel nursing in episode 11 of the podcast. Recruiters might also threaten that you’ll be blacklisted from their agency or the particular hospital.
Now, I think it’s fair for travelers to frown on this type of bullying and ultimately question their trust for the recruiter and agency when they engage in bullying. However, persuasion is different than bullying. To me, bullying has to include some sort of threat. If a recruiter is just trying to sell you on the benefits of a particular job and convince you how wonderful it will be, well, that’s their job.
Also, I hate to say it, but at certain point, these threats become justified for lack of a better term. For example, if the contract has been signed and the start date is within 1 week, then these might no longer be threats as opposed to the execution of contract clauses. That said, I’m the first to argue that travelers get treated unfairly when contract cancellations go against them, but that’s a subject we covered in detail in episode 16 when we discussed contract cancellations.
11) Travel Nursing Pay Package Confusion
Okay, so the 11th item on our list is when recruiters fail to ensure that travelers fully understand the pay package before the assignment starts. It happens so often that travelers receive their first pay check and are baffled by what they’ve received. And it’s amazing how paychecks are almost always less than the traveler anticipated. They’re rarely more than the traveler anticipated and that says something about the way that recruiters quote their pay packages. This will always damage trust so it’s important for recruiters to ensure their travelers know exactly how much they’re getting.
Recruiters should avoid quoting only blended rates. Instead, everything should be broken down including the gross pay for each pay check. And while I understand that the net pay is an attractive selling point in travel nursing due to the tax-free stipends, it’s imperative for recruiters to ensure that travelers understand that net pay quotes are estimates. Recruiters never know how the traveler will fill out their w4 and it makes a big difference.
And I’m a strong believer that recruiters should never quote travelers a “taxable equivalent”. In this case, the recruiter will estimate what you would need to make in all taxable money in order to end up with the same net pay offered by the assignment. This almost always confuses travelers into thinking they’re going to make more than they actually are.
As a traveler, it’s a good idea to ask what you’re gross pay will be assuming you work all the contracted hours. You can always estimate your own net pay using a paycheck calculator like the ones provided on paycheckcity.com. We’ll link to that in the show notes.
12) When Pay Quotes Get Changed
Now, the 12th issue that can compromise the trust of travel nurses is changing pay quotes in the middle of the process. Now, I’m willing to accept that there are some instances where recruiters maliciously misquote a pay package in order to get a traveler to agree to be submitted. However, in the vast majority of cases, it’s an honest mistake.
So, just so travelers know…sometimes the rates are wrong in the agency’s applicant tracking system. This usually happens when rates change and the agency hasn’t worked with the particular hospital in a while. Sometimes the wrong specialty or shift is entered. Sometimes there are some unforeseen costs associated with the assignment like non-billable orientation hours. All of these issues can results in rates being incorrect. That said, it’s understandable that travelers get suspicious, so recruiters need to be really careful with this.
13) Travel Nursing Paycheck Errors
The 13th issue that compromises the trust of travel nurses is when there are errors on the traveler’s paycheck or problems with the paycheck. And this can happen quite a bit actually. To be fair to agencies, travel nursing payroll might be the most complicated payroll there is. There are all kinds of special cases and one-time payments to be made. There are different rates and pay packages for everyone. Also, the agency needs to get the timecard from the hospital and sometimes there are errors on the timecard.
So, with that in mind, it’s really important for agencies and recruiters to go above and beyond when paycheck errors occur. This means wiring money or walking funds into the traveler’s bank for deposit. I mean, telling the traveler that the problem can’t be fixed until the next pay cycle just doesn’t cut it in my view.
14) Failing To Touch Base With Travel Nurses
And the 14th and final issue that we’re going to cover in this episode is when recruiters fail to check in with their travelers to make sure everything is okay. Here is a quote from one of the forums:
Quote: I traveled 1800 miles to my assignment, and completed my first week orientation. I would think a good recruiter would at least call or shoot me an email asking if I have arrived safely, got moved in ok and how my assignment is going. Unquote
This traveler is absolutely correct. A good recruiter would be checking in to make sure that everything was okay. In fact, a good recruiter would check in a couple of times during a long distance process like this. There is a lot that can go wrong and the traveler is almost always out there on their own.
Now, every traveler is different when it comes to how often they want their recruiters to check in and via which modes they want them to check in. A great recruiter will take note and contact the traveler accordingly.
So, those are 14 things that recruiters and agencies do that tend to compromise the trust of travel nurses. I hope that both travelers and recruiters find this information useful. For travelers, it gives you a good idea of some things to watch out for and some actions you can take to head some of these things off at the pass. For recruiters, it gives you an idea of some of the things you should avoid doing, some of the things you might need to explain better to your travelers and, ultimately, some actions you ca take to have greater success in the industry.
As always, we’ll have the transcript of this episode up on the show notes page along with useful links to some of the stuff we discussed today. The show notes page will be found at blog.bluepipes.com/episode29.
While you’re there, be sure to join BluePipes and take advantage of all he amazing tools designed to help you manage your healthcare careers more effectively and efficiently. And for recruiters, remember, you can join for free to. BluePipes is a professional networking site like LinkedIn, so we don’t sell candidate contact information to recruiters or other third parties, but it’s a great way to build a professional network in the travel healthcare industry and the healthcare industry in general.
Of course, we always welcome your questions and comments about this topic on the show notes page as well. So please lets us know if you think there is something we missed or if there are any questions you have by posting in the comments section at the bottom of the show notes page.
And again, thank you very much for listening. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast then we would greatly appreciate your providing us with a rating on whatever platform you’re listening on whether it be itunes or stitcher, or some other platform, the ratings really do go a long way towards helping us move up in the rankings so we can reach more listeners with actionable and helpful information. And a special thanks to those of you have already left ratings, I really do appreciate it so thanks.
Okay, until next time, have a safe and prosperous travel healthcare adventure.