When someone first decides to jump into the world of travel nursing, it’s easy to overlook just how complicated the industry can be behind the scenes (if you haven't yet made the leap, check out this article on whether or not you should try travel nursing!). After all, that’s why we tend to leave so much up to the travel nurse recruiter, right?
Let’s break down the world of individuals that, as a nurse, you probably won’t be in contact with in your day-to-day, but who are crucial to making sure that your application, onboarding, and assignment go smoothly. We’ll also cover the steps that you can take to make everyone’s lives (including yours) a little easier!
Travel Nurse Recruiters
As a nurse, your relationships with your travel nurse recruiters are among the most important relationships you have.
While it may seem like your recruiter has all the answers (or tries appear that way), it’s important to understand that these individuals often don’t have as much power or say as you may assume!
Who Are Travel Nurse Recruiters?
So who are travel nurse recruiters and what exactly do they do? Long story short, they’re the people responsible for getting to know the nurses whom they work with and placing them in assignments that they successfully complete.
In fact, a travel nurse recruiter’s success (and commission!) is largely measured by the number of travel nurse placements this individual makes. Their performance is also judged by how many nurses they can “source” (meaning how many travel nurses they’re able to find and attract to themselves and/or the nurse staffing agency they work for), how many applications they submit to open positions, and ultimately how many contracts they get signed.
Where Do They Fit In?
As members of the foremost nurse-facing group in the industry, travel nurse recruiters should be your representatives—really, your advocates—in the travel nurse industry.
They’ll be the ones you rely on for answers to your questions about potential employers. And while these recruiters may not have all the answers to your questions, they’ll usually coordinate with account managers on your behalf to pass your more detailed questions on to the medical facility (more on what “account managers” are below). Travel nurse recruiters are also responsible for finding and suggesting open positions that may be a good fit for your professional interests, personal preferences, and current skillset. Finally, they submit applications for open positions on your behalf.
Keep in mind that while most nurse staffing agencies use travel nurse recruiters, a minority of agencies are ditching the traditional staffing model. Instead, these companies are helping travel nurses find assignments through a combination of technology and experienced individuals who work commission-free, a model designed to help redirect the focus on placing travel nurses on the best possible assignments for them, not simply placing as many travel nurses on assignment as possible.
Agency Account Managers
Account managers are some of the most important people you may never speak to as you go through the process of getting your travel nursing assignment.
There are two types of account managers involved in handling your application. One type, the agency account manager, communicates with medical facilities about your application on behalf of your travel nurse agency.
Who Are They?
Agency account managers are the individuals who represent your nurse staffing agency in managing its relationship with any medical facilities in need of travel nurses.
The account managers at a travel nurse agency are responsible for receiving the information about the open positions from either a medical facility’s vendor management system or account manager and distributing this information to the agency’s travel nurse recruiters. They’re also the ones that communicate with the facility account managers as needed.
Finally, some (but not all!) agency account managers are responsible for providing an additional resume screen on top of any applicant tracking software that’s used.
How Do They Fit In?
Agency account managers are one half of the gatekeeper duo (the other half being facility account managers) that connects your agency and your prospective medical facility.
When your agency first gets information about an open position, it’s the agency account manager who gets the heads-up from their facility counterparts. Agency account managers will have a general idea of the must-haves that a candidate will want to know about a position upfront (things like compensation, location, and shift type) and must ensure that all of that information is provided by the facility so that it can be passed on to your travel nurse recruiter... and ultimately, to you!
Now, say you’re super excited about one of those open positions but have a few questions that you want answered before you submit your application. You ask your travel nurse recruiter, who sends this question to the account manager at your nurse staffing agency, who will then request the details from the account manager at the facility. All these steps take time, which can result in your questions sometimes not getting answered as quickly as you might like, or details getting lost in translation. That’s why it’s important to prepare all your questions beforehand, ask them all at once, and get everything down in writing.
And finally, if you decide to apply, an account manager from your agency will be the one to take your application from the travel nurse recruiter and submit it to an account manager at the facility for consideration. In some cases, before doing so, the agency account manager themselves will have some say on whether your application is a good match for the position in question.
Facility Account Managers
We already know that account managers are low-key MVPs, but we haven’t even introduced their facility-based counterparts - the second type of account managers who handle your application!
Who Are They?
Facility account managers are a facility’s counterparts to agency account managers. They represent medical facilities in communicating with agency account managers and screening candidate applications.
Facility account managers are responsible for collecting pertinent details on an open position from the facility they represent and packaging this to send to the account managers in various agencies. They communicate with agency account managers as needed, and they often determine which candidates move forward in the application process.
How Do They Fit In?
As the second half of the gatekeeper duo, a facility account manager often mirrors the work of an agency account manager.
A facility that wants to advertise new openings to agency account managers does it through their account managers. These individuals source open positions and collect important details about the assignment (i.e. scheduling, pay, etc.) directly from the facility. They’ll then put this information into a vendor management system, which will get sent out to the account managers within staffing agencies. If the medical facility has a “direct relationship” with a staffing agency, the account manager at the facility might bypass the VMS and send these assignment details straight to the account managers at that agency.
It’s the facility account manager who will field the questions that made their way from you to your travel nurse recruiter, and then to your nurse staffing agency’s account manager. If they don’t immediately have the answer, they’re able to go directly to the source (for example, a manager at the medical facility where you’re applying) to clarify.
Finally, they’re usually the ones whittling down applications that the facility receives into finalist candidates for the assignment. Depending on how hands-on the facility is in their own application process, this whittling can range from determining the shortlist that ends up getting interviews all the way to choosing the candidate(s) who receive the offer - all after running it by the hiring manager, of course! In the same way that an account manager develops a keen sense of what their nurses will need to know, a facility account manager knows what the must-haves are in a candidate applying for an open position at their facility.
The Credentialing Team
So you found out you got the job and are ready to make the move over to your new home for the next 13 weeks. But... there’s still a huge roadblock in the way: the massive list of nursing credentials and health records required as part of your onboarding process!
Staying on top of credentialing is a lot more difficult than it looks (and trust us, it already looks difficult), mainly because each medical facility will have its own list of requirements that a nurse must fulfill—from drug screens to fit mask tests—before working within its walls.
Who Are They?
While your travel nurse recruiter leads you through the job market, the credentialing team will lead you through all of your onboarding steps to make sure you can hit the ground running on day one.
Different agencies run their credentialing teams in different ways. Some teams offer much more robust support and will guide you (and send updates and reminders) through each step of the process. Other teams are far more hands-off: you’ll be handed a list of tasks to complete and documents to fill out.
Credentialing teams are a crucial part of the travel nurse onboarding experience. They help you with everything from accessing insurance benefits (if you’ve signed up for insurance through your company!) to collecting your drug screens to confirming that you’ve taken all of your training modules.
The process itself varies widely: collecting nursing credentials can take anywhere from under a week to over a couple of months! It all depends on which credentials are required and how diligent you and your credentialing team are about moving the process along.
Where Do They Fit In?
Having your credentialing in order is very important. And we mean very. Proper nursing credentials not only keep all parties on the legal side of things, but they also protect patients by requiring that their nurses have the appropriate skills, education, and health status to take care of them.
If you don’t have all of your required nursing credentials in place, you cannot start your assignment, regardless of the dates listed on your contract. In fact, missing credentials and incomplete onboarding is a leading cause for missed start dates! If any of your nursing credentials expire or are revoked in the middle of an assignment, you are not allowed to practice until they’re renewed or reinstated.
Here’s a pro-tip for you: not all credentialing processes are made equal! Some companies will communicate more proactively about missing or incomplete documents, and some actually have systems in place to warn you of upcoming expiration dates for your nursing credentials. It’s important to note that regardless of how proactive your credentialing team is, the responsibility to stay on top of your credentialing ultimately lies with you.
Missing credentials and incomplete onboarding is a leading cause for missed start dates!
The Payroll Team
Every pay period, you receive a check reflecting all the work you’ve done. But how does your travel nurse agency’s system take the various shifts you’ve worked, run them through the dizzying list of pay rates, reimbursements, and expenses to finally turn these calculations into a neat number that’s deposited into your bank account?
For that Herculean feat, you can thank your payroll team.
Who Are They?
The payroll team is there to manage travel nurse pay for the agency and help ensure that you get paid accurately and on time. Usually, they’re also the folks whom you’ll want to get in touch with if you have any questions about submitting timecards, determining whether a certain expense is reimbursable, or failing to receive your paycheck on time.
Where Do They Fit In?
After you’ve signed a contract and worked your way through most (if not all) of the necessary nursing credentials, your next step will typically be to set up your payroll. Most travel nurse agencies will pay you every week, and some will give you a preview of your travel nurse pay to take a look before payday.
As a travel nurse, it’s a great idea for you to confirm your paychecks each week and not take the accuracy of your pay amount for granted. Payroll errors can and do happen, not because a travel nurse agency is incompetent or corrupt, but because travelers’ salaries are notoriously difficult to calculate week after week. (Just think about all the different rate types and reimbursements that apply to your position alone! Keeping track of all those rates for every nurse working for a nurse staffing agency gets really difficult!
If you notice a difference in what you were expecting to be paid based on the shifts you’ve worked in a given week and what you actually received, don’t be afraid to reach out to payroll for an explanation. Chances are, they’ll appreciate the double-check—paying travel nurses accurately makes everyone’s lives easier.
Being a travel nurse requires patience in juggling the industry’s many moving pieces. It can be frustrating dealing with misplaced documents, delayed answers to your questions, and other instances where someone may drop the ball. But it’s important to remember that these individuals operate in a large and often complicated system, doing the best they can to help you get to your next assignment.
Fun Fact: Travel nurses can actually retire wealthier than doctors!
Wading through taxes as a traveler can be overwhelming. Don’t believe us? Just check out our guide on travel nurse taxes.
And yet, staying on top of your taxes is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself financially as a traveler. No matter what your travel nurse recruiter, the agency, fellow nurses, or even articles and chat rooms online might say, no one but a licensed tax professional who knows your situation is equipped to advise you on how to handle taxes as a travel nurse.
Some travel nurse agencies and recruiters may be able to give you more information (or more accurate information) than others, but the field of travel nurse taxes has more gray zones than clear rights and wrongs. Ultimately, it falls on you as a traveler to sign off acknowledgment that you take full responsibility for any of your tax-related decisions!
Who Are They?
Tax advisors are professionals you can hire to help you make the best possible decision for yourself when it comes to paying taxes as a travel nurse. Travel nurses have more complicated taxes than staff nurses as many will have multiple state taxes to file at the end of a year. Additionally, if you are receiving tax-free reimbursements, you will need to make sure you have a true tax home.
None of this is black and white, so tax advisors can help you avoid the common pitfalls that can cost you thousands of dollars or land you in hot water with the IRS.
If you end up consulting with a tax advisor (and we encourage you do so!), keep in mind that the tax advisor you work with should have the appropriate credentials; here’s an IRS guide that walks you through how to make sure you’ve found a trustworthy tax professional.
Where Do They Fit In?
You’ll almost certainly need advice on taxes at multiple points in your travel nursing career.
When you start off (and with each move you make), you’ll want to make sure that you know where your tax home is likely to be designated (and even whether you could reasonably claim one!). When you do your taxes, you’ll need their guidance (and maybe even request their services) in filing your return. If you have questions about a reimbursement package along the way, you can always lean on this individual for legal advice. And in the unlikely event that any serious tax mistakes may have been made, you’ll be happy to have your tax advisor in your corner to help set things right.
Whether they be travel nurse recruiters, tax advisors, or any roles in between, many individuals work hard every day to link you to your next assignment. We hope you’ve developed a better sense of how complex (and impressive!) the travel nursing industry has become as well as a deeper understanding of how everyone ultimately ties into your experience.