By Kristin Rothwell, contributor
When choosing a new hairstylist, auto mechanic or financial advisor, you probably wouldn’t dare go to someone unknown without first doing a little research.
The same rule should also apply when choosing a travel nurse staffing company.
Former travel nurse Shalon (Kearney) Weddington, RN, MSN, author of “Hitting the Road: A Guide to Travel Nursing,” said that when nurses begin considering a travel nursing career, they need to figure out what is most important to them be it pay, benefits, a specific assignment destination or hospital facility.
“You really need to decide what it is you’re looking for and what priorities are most important to you,” she said. “Once you are focused, then you can easily find the company that is best for you.”
According to Kelli Harrington, senior director at the Colorado-based nurse staffing company Medical Express, once potential travelers have researched companies in advertisements, online or by word-of-mouth, they should start calling the companies they’re interested in to find out what the companies’ offerings are, to get answers to their questions and to ask for additional reading materials.
“This is your career so you need to be particular,” she said.
Questions potential travelers might want to ask are:
How many hospitals do you work with?
In what states do you offer assignments?
What pay and benefits can I expect to receive?
How quickly will I get my first paycheck?
Do you have a 401(k) plan? Is there an employer match?
What are your housing options? Are utilities included in my rent?
Do you offer 24-hour customer service support?
What is the timeline to travel ollowing the application process?
Do you offer contact hours? Are they free to me?
Tina Gonzales, director of recruitment for NursesRx, a travel staffing company based in North Carolina, also recommends going beyond asking general questions.
“Get some detail when researching companies,” she said. “While two companies may offer insurance, one may only have major medical, while the other offers a PPO [preferred provider organization] with prescription and dental.”
She added, “All travel staffing companies want your business, but be wary of a company that seems to over promise on the first call or that pushes you to work exclusively with that company in the first call.”
When Tracy Reynolds, RN, decided to become a travel nurse in 1999, she contacted several travel nursing companies before deciding on Medical Express.
“Medical Express worked the hardest to find exactly what I wanted and to get everything into place for me,” she recalled. “I felt confident in their ability to get me the assignment that best suited my needs.”
While nurses travel for different reasons—to make more money, to experience and work in various parts of the country, to live near family or to learn new skills—Harrington said that even if travelers’ priorities or goals change, they can change their assignments accordingly.
Gonzales and Harrington both agreed that one of the biggest factors for deciding on a company often comes down to the relationship between the recruiter and the traveler.
“A good recruiter will work to earn the right to represent you exclusively without expecting it from the first call,” Gonzales said. “Look for a recruiter who is easy to talk to, who makes it clear he or she is listening to you, and who looks for ways to troubleshoot any potential challenges that may come up.”
Harrington added, “Recruiters should be knowledgeable, experienced, friendly, dedicated and be able to answer travelers’ questions and provide follow-through in every aspect of the traveler’s experience.”
Other characteristics to look for in a recruiter is someone who demonstrates knowledge of travel nursing, who discusses with you the best way to promote your résumé to a job opening and who sets a realistic start date based on licensure and hospital requirements.
American Mobile Healthcare traveler Maria Oswald, RN, agreed, and said that she believes a recruiter can make or break a company.
“My recruiter, Jennifer Bell, has been fantastic and that has really helped, especially during transition times and getting assignments,” she said.
So before signing a contract and heading out on your first assignment, potential travelers should do their research and feel out companies to find a staffing agency that offers excellent customer service and the benefits they want most.
“You want a company that will be there for you and not just book you and not ever hear from them again,” Harrington said. “You want a company that will support you through the process.”
To get more information about travel nursing, click here. To access insider tips, interviews and more from your computer or on-the-go, download the new Travel Nurse Talk at podcasts travelnursing.com.
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