Travel nursing is becoming one of our nation?s fastest growing professions, and it?s no surprise. If you love seeing new places and enjoy exciting new experiences that evoke the feeling of taking an extended vacation, then the career of a traveling nurse might be just what the doctor ordered! Travel nursing enables many people to stay on vacation for two to six months in free luxury accommodations while earning high hourly wages at the same time.

Yet despite all these advantages, many nurses describe to me that they’ve shied away from the traveling profession. Why? Because bad experiences with placement agencies have left them with nothing but a negative impression. They’ve been underpaid or lacked benefits, and I can’t tell you how many nurses have complained to me about inadequate housing or recruiters who were unkind, uncaring, and just plain unavailable. The sad result is that nurses end up jumping from one agency to the next, always in search of the perfect package that?s never there.

In this light, choosing the right staffing agency requires a nurse to consider everything that is offered. Some nurses emphasize pay as their top priority. Others require an excellent benefits package. Many travel RNs are location-specific and want to experience the lifestyle in the country’s hot spots. Career flexibility is often a pivotal factor, along with customer service. The bottom line is, your agency choice depends largely upon one of the four following criteria.

SALARY

No question about it, there are some agencies that offer more money than others. So the first thing to remember is that agencies may base salaries upon things like location availability, need-to-fill assignments, and cost of living.

Some agencies must offer noticeably higher rates if they expect to fill certain assignments where nurse-to-patient ratios are very low, or where a facility has extreme patient needs. If you’re a nurse who is attracted by very high dollars, be alert for a potentially desperate situation you might be entering, and the workload it could bring. You may make more money, but you?ll earn every dollar and more.

Location also factors into salary. The California bay area and many larger east coast cities definitely offer more lucrative pay rates. It?s also much more expensive to live in those places, so recognize the relationship that exists between salary dollars and cost of living. I?ve seen nurses return from Hawaii saying they had a great vacation and made a lot of friends?but their purses were lighter, not heavier from the experience. You might get less money in an exotic location and come back with more money from a not-so-exotic location. My point is, your criteria will determine your priorities.

BENEFITS

What some companies may lack in salary, they make up for with benefits. Many agencies offer benefits programs that revolve around monetary bonuses or discounted luxury housing; and I have even observed a trend with several newer companies that offer entirely free housing to all their nurses. Take note, however, that those agencies may not ante up the really high salaries. It?s a trade-off, so they compensate you with benefits to save you daily, monthly, and annual expenses. Every nurse should be aware of what benefits they need the most, and then ask their recruiters to assist in developing a package that is tailored to their individual needs.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

To many traveling nurses, customer service and aid are the most important attributes a placement agency possesses. If you called ten agencies and only talked with one live recruiter, it?s probably best to narrow it down to the agency where individual placement specialists were easily available. After all, if you’re ready to proceed with a new assignment you?ll want an agency that can make it happen fast and has recruiters available who already understand your criteria. In fact, your criteria may change from one assignment to another, so customer service is paramount. Determine what you want and then find out which agencies can make it happen.

FEATURED LOCATIONS AND HOT SPOTS

While for some nurses, salary, benefits, and career flexibility might be the number-one interest, many others just want the obvious?to travel and see the world. If you’re an adventurer who cares more about the travel experience than the money, then you?ll need an agency that can offer you the locations you want.

Not every agency can send you just anywhere. Figure out where you want to go, and then call around to discover who can send you there.

A travel nursing career is absolutely one of the best, most rewarding choices any nurse can make, but it?s important to select a company who will partner with you every step of the way. Before you jump in, do your homework and research all the best placement agencies. Finding the agency that fits your unique wants and needs will drastically increase your chances of success and happiness in your career.

Janet Fikany is a “Placement Diva” for HealthCare Staffing Network. For travel nursing advice, please visit HSN online at http://www.hcstaffingnetwork.com, or call Janet toll free at 1-877-385-3097.

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