20 Tips For Choosing The Right Travel Nursing Agency


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA


Are you a registered nurse with a love for travel? If you could go from place to place, meeting new people and experiencing new things while still caring for patients and earning a good income, would you? If that sounds like something you would enjoy, working as a travel nurse could be a perfect option!

Maybe you considered travel nursing and wondered, “Who can tell me how to choose a travel nursing agency?" In this article, I will share a few reasons why choosing the right agency can help you succeed as a travel nurse. As you read further, you will find 20 tips for choosing the right travel nursing agency and learn about common mistakes to avoid in your search for the right agency.



WHAT IS A TRAVEL NURSING AGENCY?


Travel nursing agencies are employment agencies that place nurses in hospitals and other healthcare facilities to help with short-term staffing needs. These agencies work with nurses to secure job offers and negotiate terms. Some travel nursing agencies place nurses in national or international locations. Others also offer local travel nursing opportunities.

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HOW MANY TRAVEL NURSING AGENCIES ARE THERE?


There are more than 500 travel nursing agencies in the United States. With a continued shortage of nurses nationwide, the likelihood of more agencies opening is quite good. It is important to consider facts, ask questions, and have the right people in your corner if you want to become a travel nurse. Therefore, choosing the right travel nursing agency is essential.



5 REASONS WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT TRAVEL NURSING AGENCY


As you begin to weigh your options for travel nursing, finding the right agency to represent you is important. The right travel nursing agency can make a big difference in the type and quality of jobs you find. The following are five main reasons why choosing the right travel nursing agency is important.

REASON #1: Having the Right Travel Nursing Agency Means You Have an Advocate

One of the most important things to consider as you try to choose the right travel nursing agency is what it means for you as far as support goes. Good travel nursing agencies have recruiters and staff whose responsibilities include advocating for you. Your recruiter is the go-between for you and the hiring healthcare agency, which means they will negotiate contract terms and make sure you are happy.

REASON #2: Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations Value Input from Good Travel Nursing Agencies

Healthcare facilities requiring travel nursing assistance are overwhelmed because of being short-staffed. They rely on travel nursing agencies to find qualified nurses ready to hit the ground running. When you find and work with the right travel nursing agency, your chances of finding placement in a travel nursing job increase.

REASON #3: The Right Travel Nurse Agency Offers Job Security

When you choose to work as a travel nurse, as long as you are licensed in the state of service, you have the benefit of choosing where and when you want to work without limitations to your geographical area. Good travel nurse agencies know which locations need nurses most and tap into resources to help secure contracts for travel nurses. As long as you know what assignment or region you want next, your recruiter can usually have your next assignment and contract lined up before your current one ends.

Knowing that you can move from one job to the next easily is important because, unlike nurses in traditional roles, travel nurses do not have a set routine or schedule day in and day out. When you choose the right travel nursing agency, you will have support to make sure the only downtime you have is the time you want to take off from work.

REASON #4: The Right Travel Nursing Agency Will Support Professional Growth

Another factor to consider when choosing the right travel nursing agency is that good agencies support and promote professional growth and development. Good agencies will offer continuing education opportunities, often at no expense to you. Additionally, should you choose to go back to school and earn a higher nursing degree or become a nurse practitioner, the right travel nursing agency will work with you to find placements that align with your new degree and title.

REASON #5: Good Travel Nurse Agencies Offer Better Benefits

A concern for many nurses considering travel nursing is whether they will have benefits like health or dental insurance or paid sick leave. When you choose the right travel nursing agency, one with a proven track record of success and considerable time in business, you usually have access to great benefits.



HOW TO CHOOSE A TRAVEL NURSING AGENCY?

(The following are the 20 tips for choosing the right travel nursing agency.)


TIP #1: Talk to Other Travel Nurses


About the Tip:

One of the easiest things you can do to make sure you choose the right travel nursing agency is to talk to other travel nurses. You can join online communities for travel nurses, talk to nurses you know who do travel nursing, or ask the agency to connect you with nurses who are willing to share their experiences working with the company.

Why This Tip is Important:

Talking to other travel nurses gives you firsthand knowledge of their experiences with an agency. Although it is normal for any employer/agency to have a dissatisfied employee from time to time, you want to find an agency that has a high satisfaction rate among its nurses. Ask about recruiter support, benefits, whether they are paid on time, and how easy it is to get a new contract after another ends.


TIP #2: Check Out Reviews on Their Company Website


About the Tip:

Reputable travel nursing agencies will have a company website where you can view information about the company. In addition to knowing the company’s history and available jobs, check out the reviews section to see what people are saying about them.

Why This Tip is Important:

The reviews section of the company’s website is a great place to get input from nurses working for, or who previously worked for, the company and healthcare organizations who used their services. Look for keywords in the reviews that indicate good client support, easy housing placement, competitive pay and benefits, and plenty of jobs.


TIP #3: Look for Social Media Posts


About the Tip:

One of the great things about technology is that we have access to people worldwide if we look in the right places. If choosing the right travel nursing agency is important to you, you can use the internet to find social media posts about agencies.

Why This Tip is Important:

You can find out a lot about a travel nursing agency and what it offers by reading reviews and posts on social media. Despite there being fake images on social media and people trying to make themselves into something they are not, it is also a place where people often say what they feel. If you go to a social media site and enter the name of a travel nursing agency, any posts where the agency was tagged or mentioned will appear. Then, you can read what others think about the agency and their experiences working with them.


TIP #4: See How Many Jobs the Agency Has Available


About the Tip:

Hospitals and other healthcare organizations today are scrambling to fill jobs left void by a nationwide shortage of nurses. What this means for us as nurses is that the number of available travel nursing jobs has increased, which should mean it is easier to find travel nursing opportunities.

Why This Tip is Important:

In your quest to choose the right travel nursing agency, keep in mind that good agencies typically have more jobs than those with mediocre performance or reputations. This is because healthcare facilities and the people responsible for managing them want agencies they can count on, and when they find a good agency, they usually keep coming back for business.


TIP #5: Does the Agency Serve Diverse Healthcare Settings?


About the Tip:

Choosing the right travel nursing agency involves asking lots of questions. One important factor you want to consider is the types of settings where the agency has available contracts.

Why This Tip is Important:

When you know the type of work you want to do and the type of setting where you want to work, it makes deciding whether to accept a contract easier. Ask the travel nursing agency if they have multiple jobs available in diverse settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health, or physicians’ offices. If the agency does not have contracts in the settings you prefer, it may not be the right agency for you at this time.


TIP #6: Find Out if the Agency Has Exclusive Contracts


About the Tip:

Larger travel nursing agencies and agencies that have been in business for a while often have exclusive contracts at well-known hospitals and medical centers. They may also have managed service agreements with large healthcare systems that manage several hospitals or healthcare facilities.

Why This Tip is Important:

When travel nursing agencies have exclusive contracts with prestigious healthcare organizations and medical centers, you can benefit from them. You not only have opportunities to gain valuable experience, but agencies that have exclusive contracts can give their nurses the first option for premium travel nurse assignments. Additionally, if you decide you want to step away from travel nursing, working under an agency's exclusive contract could increase your chances of finding a permanent job in these facilities.


TIP #7: Find Out if the Agency Offers Extended Contract Options


About the Tip:

Although contract lengths vary, the average travel nursing job lasts 13 weeks. Many agencies work with the same hospitals or healthcare facilities for long periods, which could mean extended contract options if you want them.

Why This Tip is Important:

Travel nurses are not required to extend their contracts. However, if you work on an assignment that you find enjoyable and wish to say, it is helpful to know your options beforehand. Another thing to consider about this tip is that if your recruiter tells you there are opportunities for extended contracts, chances are they have solid relationships built with some of the facilities where you will work. This means stability and opportunities for work, even if it is at a later date.


TIP #8: Look for Companies that Offer Comprehensive Benefits


About the Tip:

Nursing travel agencies typically list the “average pay” for their available jobs. However, your pay rate is only part of your overall compensation. When you ask about benefits, verify when the coverage starts and if they offer guaranteed hours each pay period.

Why This Tip is Important:

Travel nursing offers some excellent opportunities, but not all travel nursing agencies are the same. The best agencies offer generous travel nurse benefits, including health insurance options, vision and dental insurance, paid travel expenses, free housing, free continuing education classes, retirement benefits, and professional liability insurance. Choosing the right travel nursing agency means choosing an agency that meets your needs as much as you meet the needs of the healthcare facilities where you work.


TIP #9: Find an Agency with a Proven Track Record of Success


About the Tip:

Travel nursing is a competitive industry. As you look for the right agency, find out how long the agency has been in business, how long administrative staff and recruiters have worked with them, and how many nurses remain with them long-term.

Why This Tip is Important:

It says a lot about an agency when their recruitment and administrative staff have been with them for an extended period. Good travel nursing agency administrators and recruiters want to work for agencies that represent the profession with high standards. So, if the agency has had the same people in place for a long time, it is a good indication that they are good to work for. Additionally, when recruiters and administrators have been with the same company for an extended time, you can feel confident that they know their way around the travel nurse industry and will work hard for you.


TIP #10: Find Out if the Company Offers Competitive Pay


About the Tip:

Some of the things that make travel nursing so great are the job outlook and income potential. It can really pay off if you take the time to check out more than one agency to ensure you choose the right travel nursing agency that offers great pay.

Why This Tip is Important:

As you talk to recruiters, ask if they offer competitive pay for nurses based on experience, certifications, or location of the contract. While I am the first person to say and believe that nursing is about more than a paycheck, we still must pay bills, right? So, it is in your interest to research different agencies to see which ones pay the most and compare their pay.


TIP #11: Ask How the Agency Handles Cancelled Contracts


About the Tip:

Unfortunately, even the best travel nursing agencies experience occasions when contracts are canceled. It is important for you to know what your rights and responsibilities are if a contract is canceled through no fault of your own.

Why This Tip is Important:

When contracts are canceled, you and the agency miss out on revenue. A travel nursing agency must be able to bill for the hours nurses work to cover expenses and payroll. Depending on the reason for the contract cancellation and how your contract is structured, you may be held responsible for expenses otherwise covered by the agency. For example, if you paid for your own housing and have not yet been reimbursed, you may not get reimbursed. If you signed a lease because you expected a long-term contract, you may also get stuck with the financial obligations of the lease. Ask questions and carefully read the fine print of your contract so you are not taken by surprise.


TIP #12: Find Out How Housing Is Arranged


About the Tip:

One of the perks of travel nursing is that you usually get a housing stipend or free housing accommodations. Before committing to an agency, you need to know their policies for meeting your housing needs. Ask if the agency has housing coordinators and how easy it is to get housing set up through the agency.

Why This Tip is Important:

While working as a travel nurse can be exciting, it can also be stressful because you move from one place to another. If you find a travel nursing agency that has someone assigned to help you find appropriate accommodations, it can relieve a lot of worry. Be sure to ask if the agency offers a housing stipend or if they only offer payment for contracted company housing. When you choose the right travel nursing agency, the agency can typically find a nice place that is furnished to accommodate your lifestyle.


TIP #13: Ask About Local Travel Nursing Opportunities


About the Tip:

It is good to get as much information about travel nursing agencies as possible. In addition to pay, benefits, and other perks, knowing what options you have for travel nursing assignments can help you choose the right travel nursing agency.

Why This Tip is Important:

Working as a travel nurse offers great opportunities to visit new cities and states or even travel the world. As much as you enjoy traveling, there may be times when you want to work closer to home while still having the benefits of traveling nursing. In these cases, working with an agency that also offers local travel nursing opportunities is an excellent option.


TIP #14: Be Flexible


About the Tip:

As you research options and try to choose the right travel nursing agency, it is natural to look for everything you want in an agency, but what do you offer? If you want to become a travel nurse, being flexible is important, especially until you get established with an agency or agencies.

Why This Tip is Important:

Travel nursing agencies need nurses for diverse jobs and roles. If your desire is to get your foot in the door and develop a good working relationship with a recruiter or agency, flexibility is a great way to get started. As with any job, you can expect nurses who have worked with the agency longer to have their pick of available jobs before the new guy gets to choose. If you are willing to be flexible without compromising what is good for you, you could land some great travel nursing jobs. As you gain more travel nursing experience and build a relationship with the agency, your chances of getting the contracts you want improve. Remember, we all have to start somewhere!


TIP #15: Find an Agency with the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission


About the Tip:

To choose the right travel nursing agency, look for agencies that have the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission launched the Gold Seal of Approval in 2005, using it to provide a comprehensive, independent evaluation of healthcare agencies’ ability to meet quality healthcare standards and provide competent staffing services.

Why This Tip is Important:

When you find a travel nursing agency that has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval, you can rest assured the company has been evaluated and recertified every couple of years. The Gold Seal of Approval is considered a designation of a successful business.


TIP #16: Find Out if the Company Offers On-the-Job Support


About the Tip:

Landing a travel nursing job is easy with the right travel nursing agency if you meet the employment requirements. What happens after you get on the job, though? Ask the agencies you are considering what type of support you will have once your job starts.

Why This Tip is Important:

Unless you work a travel nursing job close to home, chances are you will not know anyone at your new job site. While nursing managers and coworkers should offer support and direction, you need to know that your travel nursing agency has an active support system to help if you run into problems on the job. Ask if the agency has clinical liaisons or support staff who are available 24/7. Find out how to reach your recruiter and others assigned to your case. Having a good support system indicates you are choosing the right travel nursing agency.


TIP #17: Know What YOU Want


About the Tip:

The first step in choosing the right travel nursing agency is to decide what you want in a job and agency. Think about location, scheduling options, pay, and benefits. Also, consider if the agency assigns a recruiter to work with you or if you work with a team of recruiters. Then, look for agencies that offer what you want.

Why This Tip is Important:

Working a job you are not happy with or needing help and not getting it can be frustrating. If you know what you want in a job and what to expect from the agency offering you work, you can decide if the agency aligns with your goals and needs. As a travel nurse, you will work in different settings and locations, so it is important to be honest about what you want and find an agency that meets your needs.


TIP #18: Look for Knowledgeable Recruiters


About the Tip:

Travel nursing recruiters are responsible for locating available jobs, negotiating contract terms, arranging housing, and managing other details related to the job. They act as a sounding board and advocate for travel nurses.

Why This Tip is Important:

If you want to choose the right travel nursing agency, having knowledgeable, helpful recruiters is a must. You should feel comfortable not only having the recruiter interview you but also interviewing the recruiter. Ask lots of questions and find out what the recruiter can do for you. Verify the turnaround time for return calls and assistance on the job. Determine the extent of their role in helping you secure housing and other benefits. Remember, no question is a bad question.


TIP #19: Find Out What Kind of Bonuses the Agency Offers


About the Tip:

Many travel nursing agencies offer extra incentives for nurses in the form of bonuses. The agency may offer overtime and shift differential bonuses or completion bonuses. Be sure to ask if the agency you are considering offers bonuses and get specific details about how they are paid out.

Why This Tip is Important:

Part of choosing the right travel nursing agency is making sure you are taken care of by the company. You should find out the particulars of a job or contract before committing and make sure you get everything in writing. If you ask questions before agreeing to a contract, you have time to negotiate anything that is lacking. Conversely, if you fail to ask questions and negotiate the terms you want before committing, you may miss out on some of the benefits and perks the agency offers.


TIP #20: Make Sure You Meet the Requirements to Be a Travel Nurse


About the Tip:

Choosing the right travel nursing agency does not mean anything if you are not qualified to become a travel nurse. Thankfully, because there is such a demand for nurses, if you are a registered nurse with an active RN license and at least one year of clinical experience, you should not have trouble finding a job post.

Why This Tip is Important:

If you know you meet the general requirements of being a travel nurse, then you can start your search to choose the right travel nursing agency. Because there is such diversity in travel nursing jobs, you should start by asking each agency you talk to what their minimum requirements to come on board their team are. Then, once you know you are eligible for hire, you can discuss available jobs with your recruiter and find one best suited for you.



BONUS! 5 MOST COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID WHILE CHOOSING THE RIGHT TRAVEL NURSING AGENCY


Once you decide you want to become a travel nurse, choosing the right travel nursing agency is essential. Despite having tips to find the right agency, it is possible to make some mistakes that could lead to choosing the wrong one. The following are five common mistakes to avoid in your search for the right agency.

MISTAKE #1: Not Doing Your Research

There are so many travel nursing agencies to choose from that it can feel overwhelming trying to sort through them all. Nevertheless, choosing the right travel nursing agency means doing your research to see which ones measure up to your expectations. If you do not put in the time to get all the details about an agency and what it has to offer, you may not find the agency best suited for you.

MISTAKE #2: Ignoring Your Gut Instinct

With a high demand for nurses and travel nursing agencies everywhere, you will probably come across at least a few agencies that do not measure up. If you are anxious to get to work, you may be more likely to overlook warning signs that you need to avoid an agency. Pay attention to your instincts. If something feels off or if a recruiter is trying to oversell the agency but not putting what they say in writing, that is a sign that you should keep searching to find the right travel nursing agency.

MISTAKE #3: Skimming Over the Fine Print

If you have been trying to choose the right travel nursing agency for any length of time, you probably know the paperwork can be a nightmare. You may feel overwhelmed or frustrated, which makes it easy to rush through so you can move on to the next phase. However, in doing so, you could miss crucial details about the agency and potential jobs. You owe it to yourself to take the time to read contracts carefully, paying close attention to the fine print. Discuss questions or concerns with your recruiter before signing anything. Your recruiter is your advocate, so if you do not like the terms of a contract or want to negotiate something else, speak up!

MISTAKE #4: Dismissing Public Reviews

You can learn a lot about a travel nursing agency by reading company reviews and public feedback. If you find an agency that has negative reviews from nurses, healthcare facility administrators, or employees, pay attention. It is understandable that some people are not satisfied, no matter how hard you try to please them. However, if an agency has negative reviews or posts from former employees or contracted facilities, you want to see responses posted to those reviews that demonstrate professionalism and a willingness to fix problems. If an agency is not willing to address something that has been negatively published about them on a public site, the chances of them listening to you when you need them are slim to none.

MISTAKE #5: Being Fixated on the Hourly Salary

One of the awesome things about traveling nursing is that you can earn an excellent income. However, the hourly pay rate is not the only factor to consider when it comes to compensation. As you research options on your journey to choosing the right travel nursing agency, be sure to factor in benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, reimbursement of expenses, and bonuses. In many cases, the benefits packages travel nursing agencies offer are worth tens of thousands of dollars. If you like the benefits package, you may find that you are willing to negotiate the hourly rate so it is agreeable for all parties.



MY FINAL THOUGHTS


When you found this article, you may have been wondering, “Can someone tell me how to choose a travel nursing agency?” Throughout the article, I shared 20 tips for choosing the right travel nursing agency and gave you some insight into why it is important to choose the right agency. You also learned some common mistakes to avoid to help you choose the right agency to represent you. If you feel like traveling nursing is something you want to do, there is no better time! I encourage you to start searching today and find some agencies whose values align with yours and get started on your travel nursing journey!


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).