Learn about what happens after you accept a travel nursing assignment, including the paperwork and licensure process, as well as how you are paid and how you go about choosing your benefits package.
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Peter: Welcome to an all new episode of Travel Nursing Insider brought to you by Onward Healthcare. Joining us again today are resident experts Deb Shea, Vice President of Travel Nursing with Onward Healthcare and Sera Cullen, Director of Travel Nursing.
In our first four episodes here on Travel Nursing Insider, Deb and Sera have walked us through the process of why nurses choose to travel, what the benefits are, and how to best work with a staffing agency to find the job you want. Today, we’re going to close the loop and let you know what happens once you accept a travel nursing job.
Sera what about pay and benefits, how do I go about getting those things in line?
Sera: When you have an offer from the facility, you’re going to work with your recruiter to customize a package for exactly what you’re looking for. The first thing that you guys are going to talk about is the pay that you’re looking for. There is tax advantage which is a program where you can take part of your pay as per diem, a daily allowance, and you’re giving it on a weekly stipend amount. There is also travel allowance to and from the hospital. This is tax free and follows the IRS guidelines for the amount of travel allowance given to a particular individual traveling. There’s also insurance. The insurance is amazing. It’s through United Healthcare and in fact, I have my whole family on it as well, so I have to say it is fantastic.
There are also license assistants so when you have to get your licenses for the different locations that you’re going, Onward Healthcare is going to be able to help you out and then there’s the housing piece and housing is either going to set you up with housing or you can also take a stipend amount which is a tax-free housing allowance so you can use that to either stay with friends or find your own housing and use it anyway that you need to. The great thing I said about the packages is the fact that you can customize it. So say you don’t need all of these benefits that we offer, you don’t necessarily lose out on that benefit. What we’re going to do is you’re going to decline that one and will be able to put the dollars that we would have used for that into another part of something that you’re looking for.
It is truly a great system and nurses can come out getting exactly what they need and we can help them accomplish what they’re trying to do financially.
Peter: Do you guys keep track of all these stuff as far as once the package is put together and all the different pieces and elements and the healthcare – do you track all of this?
Sera: The way we track is as soon as you and your recruiter have discussed all the different options and exactly what you’re looking for, your recruiter is going to then draw up a contract. We’re going to fax or email it to you and then you’ll be able to read it, sign off on it and fax it back to us so then we have the full commitment.
Peter: Deb, why don’t we talk a little bit about the contract and the different parts of that and the process of going through and making sure that the person is on board with this and understands all the different pieces of this, okay?
Deb: Sure. Once a nurse signs a contract, what happens is it gets entered into our system which is a priority system, and every department is alerted. Housing is alerted that the nurse is going to be in housing and the housing coordinator immediately starts partnering with the nurse to get them their housing. Payroll is alerted, our compliance team is alerted and so is our insurance department. We absolutely have experts in each one of these areas to make sure that we can give you these benefits and support you during your assignment.
Peter: How about getting the licensing and all of that kind of stuff that’s necessary to go to one of the states and go to one of these hospitals.
Deb: What’s great about the process at Onward Healthcare is you have two points of contact. You have your recruiter, which you work with day in and day out and then once you’re booked on an assignment, you’re assigned a nurse service coordinator and he or she is your right hand person and they basically are experts in all of the paperwork and help you get compliance. If you were to need assistance in getting a license, your nurse service coordinator would kind of hold your hand and walk you through that process.
Peter: Is it generally the case that people drive their own cars to these assignments or how does that work?
Deb: We do recommend that our nurses take cars to the assignment because they end up having a better experience. So we do recommend that you take your car because you can have flexibility to enjoy what sites that might be in the location. We do have some nurses, although we don’t suggest it, that do not bring cars and at that case we do get them housing close to the hospital and make sure they’re on a bus line, what have you. Again, if you’re in New York City, we’d probably recommend you don’t have a car but most of the times we prefer if our nurses take a car.
Peter: Deb, now that we’ve gone through this whole process, how do I get my file ready to go and what are some tips you can share with us so you are really organized so when you arrive at your new assignment, you really feel that you’re organized and everything is pretty well buttoned up.
Deb: We’re experts at this too, thank God. We’re JCAHO certified so it’s important that when a nurse arrives at a facility, the hospital has a complete file on the nurse so that if the hospital ever got audited, their file is tight. Again, like I just said earlier, we partner you with a nurse service coordinator and she’ll walk you through all the paperwork. There’s basically three buckets I say.
There’s a medical file, so you have to get a physical, have a drug screen, need some titers, etc. and again, we’ll walk you through exactly what you need and talk to you about this prior to locking to this on the assignment to make sure you have all this. So you need your medical file.
Then we need your certifications and kind of some basic JCAHO testing done, so we need copies of your license, your BLS, your ACLS if needed and then of course, copies of your license. That’s a second bucket. We have your medical and your certs and JCAHO paperwork.
And then we need your payroll documents, which we never have problems getting from nurses. Everybody wants to get paid. So we make sure that we have a couple forms of ID and all the right paperwork in place.
One thing that we are proud of is that we do do direct deposit on the first paycheck. The nurses love that.
Peter: It seems direct deposit is just so much more convenient and the money is there, you’ve got it, you don’t have to worry about it, and you don’t have to go open up a checking account in a different place.
Deb: That’s correct. I’d say 99.9% of the nurses are in direct deposit. If you wanted us to mail a check, we would of course accommodate, but it’s always easier to do direct deposit.
Peter: Okay, so once my paperwork is in order and I’ve made a decision I’m going to drive or I’m going to fly, let’s talk a little bit about what the travel reimbursement really involves.
Sera: The travel reimbursement couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is fill out a form, which is already emailed to you with the original documents when you were starting to fill them out and get prepared for this assignment and so it’s actually a form that has your beginning odometer reading, your ending odometer reading, and that’s it. You fax it in to us, we’ll process it, we’ll do all the legwork for you and then it will be direct deposited into your account.
Another great thing about what we do is we pay weekly. So, you don’t have to wait two weeks to get a check or anything like that. Once a week, you’re getting a check from us for the hours that you work so you can go have a great time whatever city you’re in.
Peter: Talk to us a little bit about travel nurse housing. We did touch on this a little bit about the different options you have, you can stay with friends if you’re going to a city that you’re familiar with. What is the typical housing stipend like and what is the typical apartment like that you guys would provide to a travel nurse?
Sera: Our housing department is fantastic. One thing that we haven’t mentioned here is we have departments for everything, so no matter what you need or how we’re customizing your package, there is a department working on everything for you. Your recruiters have lots of backup, they have the nurse service coordinators but then we also have a housing department who exclusively works on the nurse’s housing.
What they do is they check with the chamber of commerce, the police department and with the local hospitals to make sure that you are in A-rated housing. The housing is going to be completely safe because a lot of the nurses traveling are single and of course, we want to make sure that they feel secure no matter where they go. So then with the housing, what’s going to happen is they’re going to go into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom private apartment. It’s going to be furnished and utilities are going to be covered.
The other great thing about the housing is that there’s deposits and stuff like that. That department handles everything. The nurse isn’t going to get there, have to write a check out of her checking account just to, you know, walk through the door. Housing is going to talk with them multiple times before they even get on the assignment.
We do a survey with the nurses when we first closed this deal and write up the contract where we find out, does the nurse not want to climb stairs? Does she want a first floor apartment because she’s traveling with pets? Does she need extra parking spaces because she’s bringing multiple cars? Whatever the nurse needs, we are going to accommodate as much as we possibly can.
And also the other thing is we want to make sure that we put the nurse as close to the hospital as possible. Nurses don’t want to spend an hour in traffic everyday, their days are long enough, and then also, we want to make sure they have the most amenities possible. If there is a fitness center, if there is a pool, if there is a gated community, we are going to put you in there. Again, we want to make sure this is a pleasant and safe experience for you. Inside the apartment, there’s going to be a queen size bed. There’s going to be your bedside tables, couches, flat screen TV, everything that we can possibly offer.
The other thing that we do is housing as I said will actually contact the nurse several times. So they’ll discuss what you guys talk about in the survey. We can offer these amenities but it’s going to be 15 minutes from the facility or if you want to be right next door to the facility, these are the other things. So we give the nurse choices, which is the biggest thing that I think is important to someone going to a new area is to really choose where you want to be and what’s the most important and so then they work with the housing department to find out exactly where they’re going to be as soon as they have all their compliance material in which Deb was talking about. They will then be given a call and given their address. They will be told how to check in, where they’re going, how to pick up their key, all the information they need. In fact, the recruiters are so sweet, they will even MapQuest it and help the nurse get directions there if she needs it.
Then the other great thing about the housing department is they follow up. They’ll give then a call the first week to find out how the housing is. Is there anything wrong with it, is there anything that needs to be changed. They are so focused on customer service that they’re going to do whatever they can. The housing department will call them the first week to see how everything is, how the move in was just to get some feedback.
They also call about the third or the fourth week just to follow up to make sure everything is going well and they also do another phone call about seven or eight weeks in, again, to follow up to make sure everything’s well.
I cannot say enough amazing things about the housing department and all the other departments because they also are so concerned with customer service and do whatever they can.
Peter: Speaking about amenities, do most of these apartments have high speed internet access?
Sera: Yes, when available. Let me preface with that. We, as I said, try and give you the most amenities possible. So, if high speed internet, if fitness centers, if pools, whatever is available for the nurse, we are absolutely going to try and get within reason.
Peter: Alright, so Deb, let’s talk about some hot jobs that exist out there today for travel nurses. Where are some real cool opportunities that you guys are seeing coming in to your offices here?
Deb: Great. We actually have a plethora of positions coming in in California. We’ve got assignments down in southern California and San Diego for all specialties. We have assignments in San Francisco, the Monterey Bay Peninsula. Right now, we’ve got a lot of hot jobs in California and we have a lot of nurses that are real interested in California, so we’re spending a lot of our client development time and effort in that market and it’s really paying off. So, if you’re looking to go to California, give us a call.
Peter: That will end this episode of Travel Nursing Insider. I’d like to thank both Deb and Sera for joining us again today.
Sera: Thank you.
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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