All travelers know that the main perk of a travel nursing career is exploring new destinations and gaining real-world experience—the pay and networking opportunities don’t hurt either. Even so, this industry requires highly specialized professionals ready and able to fill staffing shortages in multiple healthcare facilities nationwide.
In addition to providing vital services, travel nurses bring a wealth of knowledge and experience they can share with the existing nursing team, increasing the benefits shared throughout the facility. As a travel nurse, you and your skills are always in high demand, and it can be challenging to navigate all your options without a travel nurse advocate to filter the best contracts. To have the best experience possible and increase their benefits, travelers need an agency they can trust to be on their side.
Choosing The Right Agency Is Important
Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry—this is especially true for travel nurses who help fill gaps and support struggling medical facilities. So nurses deserve employers that genuinely have their best interest at heart. The traveling healthcare industry is filled with travel agencies ready to help nurses cultivate long-lasting and rewarding careers—but not all live up to that promise.
A bad traveler-agency match often results in nurses regretting their career choices, with some even opting to leave the field. After all, working with a recruiter or travel nursing agency that sees you as nothing but a number can cause severe stress and frustration. The stigma in the travel nurse industry is that agencies only look after themselves instead of the nurses they employ, a stigma that is, unfortunately, based in reality.
As a former traveler, I’ve seen and experienced many red-flag-waving agencies. Here are the red flags I learned to avoid when choosing an agency:
- Complex travel nurse contracts: Complicated processes and contracts keep travelers in the dark about the specifics of their job. They often stick with their agency to avoid dealing with the complicated and lengthy paperwork process, but complex contracts don’t have to be the norm. And the less you know about your contract, the more vulnerable you are to exploitation.
- Steep pay cuts: Greedy agencies use any method to come out on top, including secretive bill rates that leave travelers with less money than anticipated. While travel nurses are lowballed on their pay packages, the agency still profits from the facility where the nurses work.
- Unsupportive travel nurse recruiters: Recruiters are essential to being with an agency. When they aren’t genuinely invested in assisting their travelers with contracts, housing, and getting situated at their assigned location, traveling nurses take on more responsibilities with less support, creating unnecessary stress.
When agencies use their nurses only as a means to an end, travel nurses lose faith in agencies, and a divide begins to form—creating an “us versus them mentality.” In addition, undervalued and burned-out travelers contribute to negative stigmas by sharing their bad experiences. As a result, they are more likely to leave the profession, contributing to a growing nursing shortage—and who can blame them?
Deceptive and inconsiderate agencies are a massive problem in the travel nursing industry, and it’s time for nurses and medical facilities alike to recognize the bad eggs and opt to spend their time and money elsewhere. Fortunately, purpose-driven agencies are ready to support traveling nurses and help them build successful and meaningful careers.
All travel nursing agencies are not created equal, so deciding where to entrust your career’s future will affect your income, manner of living, and state of mind—a decision you shouldn’t take lightly.
A good travel nurse agency can save you time and frustration by taking care of many aspects of the planning that goes into an assignment. The right agency will make you feel comfortable, prepared, and eager to start your travel nursing journey.
Travel Nursing Agency Benefits
After experiencing agencies that didn’t have my best interest at heart, I created my agency, Nurse First, to support our nurses’ needs and desires are always met—from setting them up with their ideal travel destinations to ensuring their contracts are straightforward and competitive.
Working with the right travel agency allows nurses to experience the freedom and flexibility to advance their skills while taking advantage of new opportunities and experiencing new locations. Of course, working with a travel nurse agency offers plenty of other benefits, like job security.
When you choose to work with a travel nursing agency, you can explore new destinations across the country with every new contract. You’re not limited to a geographical area and can even discover opportunities to equip your talents internationally. Agencies are tapped into which locations need the most support, so travelers will never have to worry about their next assignment. As long as you know where you want to go next, recruiters can set up your next assignment before the current one ends. You may even take some time off between assignments, which is great—your travel agency will be there when you’re ready to work again.
Also, travelers can receive travel contract assignments in multiple environments with guaranteed work schedules when with an agency. Some agencies even have exclusivity contracts with select hospital systems, allowing you to get your foot in the door and gain valuable experience.
Perks & Benefits
No matter the industry, employees seek jobs that offer different advantages and pay well based on the position, location, required experience, and responsibilities.
Healthcare facilities value the skills necessary to be exceptional nurses, jump into brand-new settings, and excel quickly. Since they don’t have to pay for benefits, medical facilities working with travelers can offer more money upfront. Travel agencies will often list average pay rates for their job postings, but that is just part of the overall compensation, and these amounts will vary by contract.
In addition, some package taxable and nontaxable monies differ, and a few hospitals offer perks that might be part of the compensation packages—so review every detail.
When you work with a travel nursing agency, travelers generally don’t have to worry about covering the basics. Agencies may offer multiple benefits, such as medical, dental, and vision insurance, 401Ks, bonuses and referrals, weekly pay, paid vacation time, rental cars, and more. It’s always best to ask about the perks immediately if they haven’t disclosed that information.
The biggest bonus is having a dedicated travel nurse recruiter able to handle everything you need, from career and resume advice to interview assistance. Travel nursing recruiters should serve as your sounding board, advocate, and partner throughout your journey. Having one that is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and friendly is critical—they can make or break your experience with a travel nurse agency.
As a travel nurse, the opportunity for growth is one of your best benefits. You’ll hone your skills as a nurse across different specialties and with various patients and learn how to adapt to new environments and work with new people.
With a regularly changing cast of co-workers, managers, and other medical professionals, your ability to network will be unmatched. In addition, these relationships can help you learn new strategies and techniques to add to your arsenal of skills for your next assignment.
In addition to traveling the nation, a travel nurse position can explore several departments and specialties. Those positions can help expand your travel nursing résumé and encourage skill development and growth. Discuss your aspirations with your travel nursing agency. A good agency will work with you to help you expand your knowledge, skill, and experience so you can continue to grow and excel in your career.
How to Work With An Agency
A good relationship with your agency is vital to building a strong career as a travel nurse. However, to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship, there must be:
- Honest Communication: Be upfront with what interests you and tell your advocate what you are looking for, where you want to travel, and where you want to work. The more they know about you, the better they can serve your needs.
- Transparency: Bring up any conflicts, worries, or concerns that may arise during your assignment, no matter how small.
- Flexibility: Your recruiter isn’t a genie and won’t always have the perfect job for you. You may need to work weekends or float. Be open to traveling to destinations that may not be your first choice—you never know what location may surprise you and end up at the top of your must-visit list.
Travel nurses and travel nurse staffing agencies are vital to the well-being of our healthcare infrastructure. A few rotten eggs shouldn’t ruin the image of a thriving industry. Finding the good eggs—the purpose-driven agencies that want to see you succeed—will propel your travel nursing career to new heights. The most important thing to remember is to trust your instincts—you know yourself better than anyone. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not, and that’s okay! There are dozens of agencies waiting for you to find them when you’re ready (and that’s when the magic will happen).