In our first episode of Travel Nursing Insider, members of our senior recruitment personnel offer an introduction to a career in travel nursing as well as what motivates nurses to travel.
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Peter: Welcome to our inaugural show here on Travel Nursing Insider. We’re in beautiful Wilton, Connecticut at the headquarters of the Onward Healthcare who is the sponsor of this show and joining us is Deb who is the Vice President of Travel Nursing for Onward Healthcare and Sera, the Director of Travel Nursing.
Deb, why don’t we start by having you give us a little bit of background on what Onward Healthcare is all about?
Deb: Great. Onward Healthcare has been in business eight years. All the senior management team has extensive industry experience. Kevin Clark founded the company, again eight years ago. Because we have extensive industry experiences, the nurses reap the benefit and enjoy the travel experience. That’s a little summary of the company.
Peter: Deb, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about what travel nursing is all about and who gets involved in this?
Deb: Travel Nursing started about 25 years ago. Hospitals all throughout the country had peaks in census for various reasons. It could be something like a maternity leave, perhaps a new unit was opening and they have to hire enough nurses to fill 25 new beds or it could be seasonal fluctuations. Census peaks in Florida and in Arizona during the winter months as the snowbirds come into the market, so instead of hospitals hiring full-time staff for the whole entire year and not using them 100%, they hire supplemental staff or travelers to come in and work 13-week clips of time.
What’s great about it is from the patient’s standpoint, there is excellent consistency of care because it’s not like you have a nurse coming in one day and a different nurse coming in the next day. It’s for that three-month period so the quality of healthcare that’s provided to the patient is not interrupted at all.
Peter: So, this isn’t like a substitute teacher.
Deb: That’s exactly it. Bingo, you got it.
Peter: How many hospitals utilize travel nursing?
Deb: There are about 5500 acute care hospitals in the country and 87% of hospitals across the country have used travelers or use travelers. You can pretty much go wherever you want as a traveler.
Peter: I’m assuming that nurses then can pretty much have a choice of the geography, where they want to work and parts of the country they want to work and basically, follow the snowbirds if that’s what they choose to do.
Deb: Absolutely. We have opportunities all across the country, including Hawaii. We have assignments in every single state, so we can pretty much offer the nurse the exact location that they want to go to.
Peter: What are some of the minimum requirements for being a travel nurse?
Deb: Travelers obviously have to have a degree as an RN. They have to have a current licensure in the state that they’re going to be traveling in which is easy-breezy; we’ll help the nurse figure that all out, our staff can help them with that, and they do have to have one year acute care experience. They have to have worked in a hospital in a specialty that they’re going to be placing them in. Again, that’s so that the hospitals can continue to provide that awesome patient care.
Peter: Do you work at all outside of the United States for instance, in Canada?
Deb: At this time, we don’t. We do bring some Canadian nurses into the country but we don’t staff Canadian hospitals at this point in time.
Peter: Okay, so if I have an accreditation from Canada, then I could work with Onward Healthcare.
Deb: Canadian nurses are awesome. We’d love to have some come down here and help us out.
Peter: What is the typical assignment for a travel nurse?
Deb: The typical assignment is 13 weeks so it’s a three-month period. We do have some assignments that could be 26 weeks or six months and some that could be short as four weeks but most of them are 13-week periods of time. Again, that’s going to help ensure that the hospital’s providing good care to their patients. It takes a week or two for the nurses to get up and running and then they have that 12 weeks to sort of service the patients and do a good job for the hospital.
Peter: I know that you have a program that’s called the Rapid Response Program and I’m assuming that’s when a hospital, all of sudden gets an emergency need for someone, can you explain that to us?
Deb: Sure, that’s a great opportunity for nurses. It’s nurses that can start an assignment in anywhere from one to two-week periods so they’re quick starts. Generally, the nurses make about 30% more in the hourly rate and you know again, they’re going to be needing to report to the hospital in anywhere from a one- to two-week period of time, so it has to be that quick turnaround time but again in reward for that, the hospital is going to get the nurse that they want and the nurse gets paid 30% more.
Peter: If I get placed at a hospital and I really like the assignment, is there a possibility to extend it?Deb: A lot of our nurses do go ahead and extend. If you are on the assignment for three months and you like the assignment and the hospital likes you, you can go ahead and extend at that facility. We have some nurses that have been in facilities up to three years. So, it’s almost like a permanent job but yet, you get the benefits of traveling. If for whatever reason you aren’t happy with the facility or just want a change of climate, you know we can go ahead and get you a new assignment at a different facility but the option to stay at the facility on multiple assignments is there for the nurses if they’re interested.
Peter: I really like this idea of Hawaii as a travel nurse. What are some of the geographies that you intend to have most of your placements with?
Deb: We’ve got a lot of assignments in Florida in the winter months which a lot of the nurses like. The nurses like it because they’re generally in areas close to the oceans. That’s means that their apartments are walking distance hopefully to the beaches and have pools, etc. We’ve got assignments in the winter months, a lot of assignments in ski slope areas of Vermont, Maine, Colorado, Nevada; a lot of skiing up there too in Reno. In the summer months, we had a lot of California assignments. Like I said earlier in the conversation, we have assignments across the country so generally speaking, if you have a choice of location, we’re going to be able to accommodate that.
Peter: If I am interested in becoming part of the Onward Healthcare Nursing Program, do I have to sign a long term contract with you?Deb: Absolutely not. Basically, it’s you just sign up for one contract whether that be 13 weeks or 6 weeks, so the commitment to the company is only one assignment at a time. Having said that, our job and we do track this because we want to make sure that our nurses are as happy as possible and we do want to make sure that they’re renewing with the company and staying with the company and we do a really great job of that. Nurses don’t like to jump companies. Peter: Sera, let’s get you involved in this conversation. Tell us why someone would want to choose travel nursing over working in a full-time permanent position? Sera: Well, there are great opportunities as being a traveler. First of all, you get to go to many different parts of the country and experience different types of hospitals from small community hospitals to large teaching hospitals. You also get paid more for being a traveler and there are better opportunities for you to beef up your resume to add hospitals to it so in the future you’ll have more opportunities.
Also as being a traveler, you don’t get involved in any of the hospital politics. So therefore you walk in there, you do your shifts, they cannot mandate you to stay, you don’t have to do staff meetings, all that crazy stressful stuff that the rest of us have to do, walk in there, do your shifts, get out and it’s easy-breezy. So, as a young nurse, it would be very attractive because you would be able to go skiing in the winter, go to New York for the summer, go anywhere you want to so, get to meet a lot of new people and have new experiences that they may not be able to have later on in life. It’s also attractive to people who have retired. I’ve got a bunch of nurses that have RVs and they just go from assignment to assignment making their way across the US and doing and seeing all those things that they haven’t been able to see so far in life.
Peter: That seems like a really great way of taking advantage of this program. How about for people who want to stay put?
Sera: For people who want to stay put, we actually do have local offices that will help them in the areas that they currently live plus as a traveler, I know traditionally you may think, I need to travel cross country, that is not the case. You can be a traveler and still stay close to home, maybe travel to an hour to a hospital and still be able to be considered a traveler.
There’s also another option which is some of the hospitals will accommodate nurses by letting them stack their shifts together so they can go off, do the assignment, work 3 days a week and then come home for a week in between and that’s how they make that work as well.
Peter: So tell me a little bit about how this works, Sera from the standpoint, you place me in a job in a hospital, do I pay you a referral fee or how does this work?
Sera: You don’t have to pay us anything. It is actually taken care of from the hospital’s side because the hospital is the one who has the need and is looking for the nurses and has the shortage and so you as a nurse have no financial requirement to meet at all.
Peter: Once you have accepted an assignment, how do you really have before you have to start that particular assignment?
Sera: It varies completely. There are some hospitals that have need right away. There are some of the rapid responses that we touched on before that want a nurse in the hospital within a week. There are other hospitals that don’t anyone until January or three months out so the nurse is really going to work with their recruiter to figure out what their requirements are, what they need, and what assignment is going to suit them best. So, there is a lot of flexibility.
Peter: How about housing and the things like that, where am I going to live when I get to this? Is that something that you take care of as well?
Sera: The amazing thing about being a traveler is that, the travel company takes care of all the little details for you. You’re going to work with your recruiter, you’re going to find a job that fits what you’re looking for and then what’s going to happen is you are then going to show up to the assignment where we have set up housing for you, your utilities are set up, it is furnished, it is going to be in a aerated area with the most amenities possible. So, our company is going to take care of your housing, your insurance, and all the nitty-gritty details to make your transition very smooth.
Peter: Well, Sera I think we pretty much wrapped up our first segment here on Travel Nursing Insider, why don’t you tell us about one location that you know about where there are just a lot of jobs happening right now?
Sera: I would say the best location to focus on right now would be Florida. The snowbirds are starting to come down from the north. It’s getting colder up here and so Florida hospitals are going through a transition right now where their census is going up and they need lots and lots of help. Florida would be my hot job and my recommendation for this time.
Peter: Thank you so much and be sure to tune in for our next segment of Travel Nursing Insider. We’ll have both Deb and Sera back with us and we’re going to be talking about some of the benefits of being a travel nurse and also how you get started in the travel nursing profession.
Thank you for tuning in to Travel Nursing Insider. For more information on the exciting world of travel nursing, you should visit Onward Healthcare on the web at onwardhealthcare.com or call 1-800-278-0332 to speak to a travel nursing recruiter. You should also follow Onward Healthcare on Twitter at Twitter.com/onwardhealth, fan them on Facebook at Facebook.com/travelnursing, and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. Just do a keyword search for Travel Nursing Insider.
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