Travel Nurse Spotlight: Stories and Insights from a 10-Year Traveler
Healthcare travel is complex and can be challenging to navigate, especially for first-time travelers. From finding the right recruiter to understanding pay packages and reviewing contracts, travel nurses need to be well-educated. Seasoned traveler and ER nurse, Lisa D., wishes there was a better platform for new travelers to learn the ins and outs of the industry. Traveling for nearly 10 years and completing more than 25 assignments, Lisa shares her stories, experiences and important things travel nurses need to know.
“There are positive sides and negative sides to travel nursing; travelers need to know both sides,” Lisa said. “My persona is: you can do anything for 13 weeks. If you don’t like a facility, it’s only 3 days a week for 13 weeks.”
Lisa began her nursing career as an LPN in the ER, which also landed her an EMT first responding position with her local fire department. When her two children went to college, so did she to get her Registered Nursing license. Once a RN and a soon-to-be empty nester, she started working toward her two years of experience required to travel by doing local contracts, helping nearby hospitals with staffing shortages. For example, she filled in for a nurse who was deployed in the military.
Early in her travel RN career, Lisa had a unique opportunity to work a 4-week assignment in Hawaii, which she said was an eye-opening experience. It was at a very small ER department with disordered room numbers and dated processes, but she stayed open-minded. She was frequently floated to the 6-patient ICU, because other ER nurses weren’t as willing to.
“The staff nurses loved me and I enjoyed helping out,” Lisa said. “I’m from the ER, I’m used to having a lot more patients at a time. When they apologized for having to give me another ICU patient, I was like ‘sure, give me another one!’ with a smile.”
The best part of her assignment in Hawaii, she bought her children and their significant others plane tickets for Christmas, and they had a week exploring the beautiful island with her.
Lisa’s positive attitude, adaptability and willingness to help in any situation is what facilities look for in great travel nurses.
Lisa’s biggest and most important piece of advice: like your healthcare recruiter.
“Get a recruiter you can count on and enjoy talking to,” Lisa said. “If you don’t feel warm and fuzzy with your recruiter, go talk to other recruiters until you find one with the right niche. There are tons of other companies out there to choose from.”
Lisa has worked with about six different staffing agencies, two of which she said she will never work with again because of recruiter issues. The most important qualities she values in a recruiter are knowledge and honesty.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially when you’re new to the game,” Lisa said. “Make sure you have all of the facts. If something looks off on your contract, tell them.”
Lisa’s biggest pet peeve is recruiters not answering her questions. At one hospital, she was faced with a difficult assignment and unsafe working conditions. She feared for her license and expressed her concerns to her recruiter, who shrugged it off and told her, “don’t worry about it.” Another assignment, she was promised a completion bonus, but had to fight for it. The company’s reasoning was they had changed their pay schedule and tried to move the end date mid-contract without her permission. She knew they couldn’t change the contract without her agreement. Unfortunately, newer travelers may not know how to handle these types of situations like she did.
How do you research what healthcare staffing companies to work with?
Lisa shares her top tips:
- Research who likes the company or recruiter and, most importantly, why they like them.
- Get on Facebook (company pages, reviews, travel groups).
- Know the sites you can trust and the sites you can’t (i.e. if a travel nursing review site only publishes positive reviews, they probably are hiding the negative ones).
- Take note of who calls you and when. For example, Lisa only works day shift and tells recruiters this. If they keep calling about night positions, they aren’t listening or putting the traveler’s best interest first.
- Know your pay range and look for a company who has pay packages to accommodate.
- Talk with travelers you work with!
Lisa’s Golden Rule: if a recruiter doesn’t know the answer to a question, they should tell you truthfully that they don’t know, but they will find out for you! And that is just the supportive attitude that Lisa has found with her current recruiter.
“Lisa is an absolute pleasure to work with,” said her talent advisor Leah Moss. “She has a great attitude and is always willing to help others any chance she can. I enjoy hearing about her travel stories, and appreciate her sincerity and passion for nursing.”
“Everyone has their reasons to travel,” Lisa said. “My reason, I don’t do vacations very well, so travel nursing is like my vacation for 13 weeks. Working only three days a week, the other four days are vacation where I can go explore.”
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