6 Important Questions You Need to Ask A Potential Staffing Agency
Travel nursing has become quite a competitive industry so agencies are anxious to keep up with the “Jones’s”. As you might already know, not all benefits or pay packages are created equal. It is important to find an agency that offers benefits, housing and pay packages that are specific to your needs.
1. What destinations does your agency serve?
The whole point of travel nursing is to travel…right? So it is important to find a company that serves the city or cities you want to travel to. Some agencies claim they have contracts nationwide, however, that may not be the case.
If you know of a specific hospital that you would like to travel to because it looks good on your resume or a specific city you want to explore, then make sure your potential agency has a contract at that location. This is especially important if you want to travel to places such as Hawaii and Alaska.
2. How are your pay packages broken down?
Does the company tend to pay a higher base rate with lower non-taxable reimbursements or a lower base rate with higher non-taxable reimbursements?
Having a higher base rate may serve you better if you plan on taking company housing, plan on buying a house or getting a loan in the near future. If you are someone who likes to find their own housing, then a higher housing stipend may be the way to go with a lower base rate.
3. What types of housing do you provide?
Most agencies offer a one bedroom furnished apartment for your typical 13 week contract. This typically does not include dishes, linen, a washer and dryer, a T.V. or even a vacuum. If you don’t like lugging your belongings around with you all over the country or paying out of pocket to rent this stuff, then it may be wise to ask if the agency provides any of these necessities at no cost.
If your contract is only eight weeks then you will most likely get stuck in an extended stay hotel. I personally like to have nice housing so I wanted a company that focused on providing comfortable and safe housing options. If you like to find your own housing then this may not apply to you.
4. What type of benefits do you offer?
Most agencies offer medical/dental benefits and a retirement package. If these benefits are important to you than finding a company with good benefits is essential.
If you like to live on the edge with no health benefits and you brush and floss your teeth like a champ then maybe you don’t care about benefits. If this is the case then you can ask the company if they are willing to pay you a higher base rate for not taking their benefits.
As far as retirement packages go, I found it easier to do my own Roth IRA on the side, this way if I switched companies I didn’t have to worry about moving my money all over the place.
5. What types of extra work related costs do you reimburse for?
Examples include licensing fees, CEU (Continuing Education) requirements, bus passes, Certifications, Uniforms and required immunizations?
Some agencies have a CEU database that is free for their employees. This helps cut costs on those states that require a certain number to maintain or acquire a new license.
These extra costs add up over time so it’s nice to know your agency is looking out for your pocket book.
6. What are your missed and cancelled shift policies?
A missed shift means you called in sick and a cancelled shift means they cancelled you for low census. For the most part, the hospital determines how the agency handles this and it will be written in your contract.
This is important because in the traveling world if you don’t work then you don’t get paid and in some cases you may have to reimburse your agency for housing costs.
There may be a clause written in your contract that allows you to “miss” a certain amount of shifts without being penalized. There will also be a clause that states how many shifts the hospital can cancel you; usually it’s once a pay period and your agency shouldn’t require you to reimburse them for housing costs.
There are even some agencies that offer 100% guaranteed shifts meaning no matter what you will not get cancelled.
You Control Your Success
It’s important to figure out what matters to you the most when considering hiring on with a new agency. When it comes to traveling, finding your purpose and deciding what matters the most to you is the key to a successful travel nursing career.
By Crystal Gustafson, RN
Crystal Gustafson is a Critical Care Registered Nurse who spent time as a travel nurse in various states including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. She has recently accepted a system wide float pool position with Exempla Healthcare System in her hometown of Denver, Colorado and also has blog about prevention and education in healthcare. You can learn more about Crystal on her blog at https://grassrootsprevention.blogspot.com/.