In the second installment of the travel nursing Fact vs. Fiction podcast, the team focuses in on the role the traveler plays when selecting an assignment and how working as a travel nurse impacts your career goals.
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Peter: While the travel nursing profession has flourished over the last 20 years, there are still many misconceptions about working as a travel nurse. Today, we’re going to be talking to Lindsay Francis and Suzanne Johnson, travel nursing recruiters from Onward Healthcare, with Part 2 of our series: Travel nursing – Fact Versus Fiction; If you have not done so, we encourage you to have a listen to part 1 of this series.
Lindsay and Susanne, welcome back!
Peter: So back to the career path and we were discussing in part 1 of “Fact vs. Fiction, what does it look like on a resume if you are taking new assignments every three months? Does that have a negative impact from a standpoint of building your career? Suzanne?
Suzanne: No, absolutely not. As we were definitely saying before, it just really strengthens the resume. Like I said, it’s such a positive aspect when I can look at a nurse’s resume and say, “Wow! They can cover a 25-bed unit themselves or they can cover a 25-bed hospital by themselves.” A lot of that really comes from nurses’ approaches, different approaches, to nursing. Obviously, everyone’s main concern is to give good patient care.
Of one of most important things about a travel nurse is that they are adaptable and they’re able to hit the ground running. This is why orientation periods for travel RNs can be pretty short for some hospitals. The most I’ve ever seen I would say is two weeks and the least is going to be about probably three days. And then all of a sudden, the fourth day, you’re on the floor shadowing someone. The adaptability and the ability to just come on to the unit and do your job and do it well is a huge strength and I believe that is a true testament to some of the travel nurses that have worked with me over the past couple of years.
Some of these nurses I speak to might not be able to handle it but the ones who are able to keep themselves working consistently over the years and over the months as much as they want to are the ones who are going to be those travel nurses for life and they’re going to be the ones who are adaptable. That’s the keyword here.
Lindsay: I think also to – just to even grow on that statement a little bit more – you know, travel nursing has been around close to 13 years now. So I think most of the nurse managers, most of the hospitals, are now well-aware that there are a lot of nurses that do choose traveling as part of their career paths. So they shouldn’t be surprised to see a resume or to see an application from a travel nurse that has several different hospitals on it. I think what Onward Healthcare does to also help that resume look even stronger is that being part of the Joint Commission, we do get a reference for every travel assignment they take.
So even though it may be shorter contracts and shorter hospital stays that they’re working at, we have a referencing department here that’s getting a reference for every single assignment that they’ve been on. So even though they may have jumped around from hospital to hospital, they know it’s their choice and as long as they’re getting good references, good solid references from all of those, I think the nurse managers, HR, the directors in the hospitals know now again are more familiar with travel nursing as part of a lifestyle for these nurses.
Peter: I know one thing that – a myth that’s out there that you have to deal with often is people come to you and say “Well, you guys choose the assignment. I don’t really have a choice in this. You’re just going to call me up and say, you know, here’s where you’re going.” So talk to me about that.
Lindsay: Well, that’s definitely a myth. I mean, certainly we have specialties and we have assignments. We have hospitals that are looking for certain specialties. And we’ve got to somehow match what they’re looking with what we have. Certainly that’s part of it. I think our job as recruiters is we never want to tell a nurse where to go. We want to help them find the right assignment for them by asking them questions not only about their current job experience but what they like to do in their free time. Do they have family? What’s the reason that they’re traveling for? Really getting down to what it is they’re looking for. A lot of times too, a traveler may come in thinking they want a certain location or they’re traveling for a certain reason and through their conversation with us, they find out “Well, gosh. Maybe I am looking to do something totally different. I’m interested in maybe doing a phone interview.” We’re definitely not picking the assignment for them. We’re just helping them get to that perfect job.
Suzanne: Absolutely. But the one question I ask is – when I get a phone call – is “What’s your motivation?” Why are you calling me here today asking about travel nursing? What are you doing on the phone with me? And most of the time, I’ll hear – I would say a top few answers are going to be more money, more experience, we want the travel experience – those are probably top three in no particular order. But the most important thing is to talk to the recruiter and get a good feel for that recruiter. Once you get a good feel for your recruiter and your recruiter understands why you’re looking to travel then, at that point, it’s going to be between you and the recruiter to build on that relationship and really find you that position.
I have had people call me and say, “I need to make the most money hourly possible. I do not care what the location is.” That statement does come up every time to time and in that situation, what my job is then is to go through all of our job listings and say “All right, Nancy Nurse, we have five jobs that are X number of dollars an hour. These fall into your qualifications but they’re in Alaska, New York, San Diego and Texas. So pick a corner of the country and let me know where we’re going.” So that would be my job in that situation.
The phone calls that we really enjoy are the ones where someone says “You know, I don’t know why I’m calling you but here’s my story. I love mountain biking. I love hiking. I love skiing. I love something to that effect” and then we can really build upon what the person is looking for and say “All right.” I’m going to use my experience as an advisor, as a recruiter, and say “Well, if you’re looking for these things, I am going to recommend X, Y, and Z. You’re looking to go skiing? Okay, the obvious example is going to be Colorado.” Or you know what? We’re in New England. I would tell someone to go to Maine. I would tell someone to go to Massachusetts. “Okay, you only have one license so let’s focus on those New England states for the skiing season and figure out where we’re going to send you.” So the answer’s not always Colorado. It can be Rhode Island. It can be Connecticut. So you really have to develop a relationship with your recruiter because they are not going to be the ones choosing the assignment. They’re going to be the ones advising you and helping you throughout the process.
Lindsay: And at the end of the day, you can interview, you can get an offer, and it’s your decision. Again, it’s always up to you. Does the package that we’re going to give you equal what your needs are? And, again, the decision is always up to the traveler but our job as a recruiter is obviously to guide you and to help you make the appropriate decision. But again, at the end of the day, it’s certainly always the traveler’s decision.
Peter: And to the point of your ski example, of course, the hospitals in those locations, in Colorado, in New England, during the ski season, that’s when they really have a lot of openings. Is that right?
Suzanne: Absolutely. We’re starting to see those travel nursing ER and ICU jobs creep up little by little where all those when you look at the location, you say “Oh, okay. Colorado’s got a couple of new ER openings today” and you know exactly why they’re hiring those people. And seasonal needs are huge. You can’t get enough nurses in Florida in the wintertime. You can’t get enough nurses in Arizona in the wintertime. California’s one of those states that’s always very consistently open across the map but seasonally, if someone calls and says “I want to go somewhere warm for the winter”, that is absolutely – those are going to be the places where we want to send people because those are going to be the places where the hospitals are asking for nurses. So if you say “I’d like warmth”, we’re going to guide you down to Florida. We’re going to encourage you to get that license and we’re going to help you throughout that entire process.
Peter: Well, this has been a great conversation today. One last question I have for you. What if someone is on a travel assignment, they’re a few weeks in, and they have a family emergency – a parent gets critically ill – what is the process and what’s the ability for them to leave at a moment’s notice because of some emergency? Suzanne?
Suzanne: I definitely want to circle back to what you said previously, Peter. We do have a 24/7 hotline. There’s always a recruiter on call. The phone rotates between recruiters in the corporate office and it is so important that I tell my nurses if you have an emergency, call our number, listen to the prompts, and get connected with that recruiter and tell them exactly what the situation is.
Communication is key during these times. If you do have a family emergency, we are not going to scold or we’re not going to upbraid you. We want to help you. We want to call the facility and say “Nancy Nurse is not going to be in on Monday because of X, Y, and Z. So and so happens, such and such happened.” And we’re there to support you. We’re not there to tell you that you have to go in to work on Monday. We’re, like I said, you build a relationship with this recruiter now and you’re able to talk to someone over the weekends that’s going to say “All right, I’m going to call your recruiter. We’re going to get in touch with your hospital and we’re going to let them know what the situation is.”
Lindsay: And just to go on top of that as well, again, like Suzanne said, our number one concern obviously in an emergency like that is to make sure that the nurse is okay and everything is fine with her family et cetera. One thing that we really try to do is in a situation where it is an emergency, we try to work with the hospital. “Hey look, the nurse needs a week off to go home, take care of some things. They’ll be back. Maybe we’ll add a week onto the contract to make up the time.” One thing, obviously, we don’t want to ever encourage anyone to panic and just leave an assignment because chances are the hospital has people. They’re human and they’ve got permanent staff that goes through family emergencies as well. So we want to make it a workable situation for both you and for the hospital.
Peter: Lindsay and Suzanne, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us today on Travel Nursing Insider. I think this has been a great show.
Lindsay: Thank you.
Suzanne: Thank you.
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