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Working with Multiple Travel Nursing Agencies

Oct 1, 2019
The Trusted Team

To work -- or not to work -- with multiple travel nurse agencies... that is the question. The answer is simple: YES

Much like job searching for the traditional 9-to-5 desk job, there are so many benefits to working with multiple travel nurse agencies at a time. Not to mention, the rewards truly outweigh the risks... which, honestly, are pretty minimal at this point. We’ll go into those, below.

We’re giving you four reasons to keep your options open when looking for your next travel assignment. While you look after others’ health for a living, we also want to make sure you know how to look after your own professional needs (and sanity).

Four Reasons to Keep Travel Nursing Agency Options Open 

You should approach working with different travel nurse agencies the same way that singles approach dating: begin with multiple options, then hone down the field to the best choice for you. If you need some advice on where to start, check out our guide to choosing travel nurse agencies.

Today, there are over 300 agencies catering to registered nurses within the travel nurse staffing industry in the U.S. Not all of these agencies will have an assignment that fits all (or even most) of your criteria, but by working with multiple agencies you are increasing your chances by a lot.

And the only way to know which of those will offer you the best bang for your buck (or time, effort, etc.) is to try out companies until you find the recruiter, the assignment, and the package that work best for you. 

Let’s dive a bit more into the benefits of this approach!

#1: Maximizing Your Reach

As much as they’d like you to believe otherwise, no single agency has all the travel nurse jobs out there. Some hospital systems (or their MSPs) will only work with certain agencies, and some just aren’t big enough to reach every location in the country yet.

What does that mean for you?

Simple. If you have a certain location that you’d like an assignment in, working with multiple travel nurse agencies who are operating within that area will help you maximize the field of offerings available to you. While there’s no magic number (it should be however many you can comfortably juggle), we typically suggest working with no more than five different travel nursing companies at once.

If your next location (or even the specific medical facility that you’ll be working at) is a high priority in determining whether you take an assignment, then you should do your research ahead of time to help you quickly narrow down which nurse staffing agencies offer assignments that work for you. 

There are over 300 agencies catering to the travel nurse industry in the U.S. today.

Approach prospective travel nurse agencies with a list of healthcare facilities that you’re interested in working with. If it’s been a professional dream of yours to work at certain prestigious hospitals or facilities with a strong focus on a specific field, make a list of these in advance. If it’s a location you have in mind, google a list of medical facilities operating in that area and narrow that list down to the ones you want.

Either way, knowing who can get you in where (in addition to other factors) can quickly narrow your field to a few nurse staffing agencies that you can work with to figure out your next steps (pay package, private housing, etc.).

#2: Understanding What’s Out There

The most straightforward way to confirm that you’re getting a good deal is to be aware of all the deals out there. So, how do you do that? 

Connect to other travel nurse agencies offering other deals! 

If you only rely on one agency for your information, you could be missing out on top pay, better housing options, or other perks that are available to other similar assignments. 

When evaluating nurse staffing agencies with potential, hop on the phone with their recruiters early on so that you can run down a list of questions (and take notes!) that cover factors in your travel nursing experience that’ll be most important to you—from their compensation packages to their insurance benefits and lodging offerings to the recruiter experience and more.

Then, set aside time to sit down and compare the feedback you receive. 

Finally, don’t cave if a recruiter seems pushy to have you sign up with them at an earlier point than you’re comfortable with. (And many of them may well try.) After all, their bottom line is the number of contracts they’re able to make. 

Just remember that it’s well within your rights (and totally reasonable) to have your own time to deliberate on whether a certain agency is a good fit for you, as long as you respond to them in a timely fashion. If you’re getting the sense that a recruiter won’t respect that, then they’re not worth working with.  

#3: Making Yourself Scarce

Having multiple travel nurse agencies gives you negotiation room if (really when) offers come through. 

Sometimes, multiple nurse staffing agencies market the same travel nurse assignment. You can use this fact to your advantage in two ways: 

First, while you’re searching and applying for your next offer, each recruiter you’re working with will be incentivized to make your search as efficient (and their service as pleasant) as possible. Think about it: they’re not just on the clock against other applicants applying to the position you’d like, they’re also on the clock against the other travel nurse agencies working on your behalf!

Don’t be surprised if your questions about the medical facility are answered a little faster or if your recruiter stays in touch with you a little more often. ;) 

Second, this enables you to leverage your knowledge of rates at another company to ensure that you’re getting the best possible deal you can for an assignment. Many travel nurse agencies and recruiters out there have a funny way of getting creative (or more generous) with a compensation package when they know that your business is on the line.

If you realize that you’d rather work with a certain agency or recruiter, but you find a better deal for the same position that they’re offering, it could be in your interest to approach them with that alternative, asking them to tweak their offer. 

negotiating with multiple travel nurse agencies
Working with multiple travel nurse agencies can give you more room to negotiate when offers start coming through.

#4: Protecting Yourself

So you’ve kept up with your multiple agency suitors and leveraged your advantage to land an amazing opportunity with the compensation package and scheduling arrangements of your dreams. What now?

Well, we can tell you what you shouldn’t do: burn ties with the other staffing agencies.

But wait, this agency got me everything I wanted! Why do I still need to stay on these recruiters’ radars?! 

Simply put, you never know will come next.

In an arena as variable as travel nursing, it’s inevitable that some things won’t go as they should. A hospital’s staffing needs may change, causing them to cancel your contract. Misunderstandings can occur among all the different players involved in connecting you to your next travel assignment.

Even emergencies that pop up on your end could require a change of plans that makes starting or staying with an assignment no longer feasible.

While we hope that these worst-case scenarios never happen to you, we also know that the best way to protect yourself professionally and financially (because let’s be real, moving halfway across the country to start a new job every few months is E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E) is to stay in touch with alternatives.

This way, if things fall through and your agency is unable (or unwilling) to connect you with a suitable new opportunity to replace it, you have a head start on finding a similar opportunity nearby. 

Note that we’re not advocating for you to be using other travel nurse agencies to get a position that would enable you to leave an assignment you’re not in love with halfway through.

The travel nursing world is smaller than you think, so word (and reputation!) travel quickly.

But if—due to circumstances out of your control—you find yourself without work, staying on the radar of your agency (as well as that of their competitors) will help you avoid starting from scratch in an unfamiliar location... with your rent deposit already paid. 

And even if you don’t end up needing the backup over the course of your assignment, at least you’ve got a head start on sourcing for your next gig. Because in a few weeks or months, you’ll be doing this process all over again. 

Rules of Engagement

Now that we’ve gone over how crucial it is to not have all of your eggs in one basket, let's expand upon the specifics.

#1: Don’t Get into Specifics About Other Travel Nurse Agencies

You wouldn’t share details on the other individuals you’re seeing with a date, right? Same idea here.

As tempting as it is to share all the deets about how well things are going with one recruiter in an attempt to improve your experience with others, it’s best to stick to giving recruiters a general sense that you’re currently working with other recruiters.

This way, you avoid the chances that a recruiter tries to submit you for a position without your permission just because they heard that another recruiter is doing so.

#2: Control Your Submissions...

You need to retain a certain degree of control over if and when your application is submitted to a job. As a travel nurse, you’ll quickly realize that there are two ends of the spectrum in this practice: an end that’s too trusting of recruiters when it comes to submitting applications and an end that isn’t trusting enough

The “too trusting” side basically applies to people who completely leave submissions in the hands of their recruiters. Many recruiters prefer to collect information about yourself, your background and experience, and your preferences and must-haves in an assignment up front. They then submit you whenever they come across a position that they believe meets your criteria. 

The benefit to this method is its efficiency: you’re getting into the funnel for jobs as quickly as possible, and sometimes—especially for competitive positions—timing makes all the difference. 

But there’s also a downside—vetting: if you put your complete faith in a recruiter, you’re applying for jobs that upon closer inspection may not even be the best fit for you! And ultimately, that’ll just waste time for everyone involved down the line. 

The “isn’t trusting enough” side is very much the opposite. Essentially, you make it clear that no recruiter is allowed to submit you for any position without expressly gaining your permission first. Each time. 

As you can imagine, this requirement definitely slows down the process of submitting you to open positions, since... well, you’re busy! And trust us, if you’re already juggling balancing a full time nursing job with all the other commitments you have, the last thing you’ll want to do with your precious free time is comb through options with a recruiter. 

On the bright side, you’ll know that each application submitted on your behalf is for a job you could see yourself thriving at... if you’ve been submitted early enough to be considered, that is. 

The key to approaching recruiter submissions is to establish clear guidelines for a happy medium early on with your recruiter. Maybe you can discuss a method for determining what positions merit an immediate submission (without consulting you first) and which positions you’ll want to be made aware of before giving the OK to submit. 

For example, if a position meets all of your must-haves and nice-to-haves, your recruiter can submit right away, but if it only has a fraction of them, then you’ll want to be consulted first. Maybe you know that you’ll be working with multiple nurse staffing agencies to secure an open position at a certain facility, so you’ll want any submissions to that facility run by you in advance to make sure that you’re going with the agency you want.

However you choose to strike this balance, make sure that the process you settle on is both efficient and empowering for you.

choosing travel nursing assignments
It's ok to be open with recruiters, but don't be tooo open.


#3: ... But Don’t Freak Out If You’re Double-Submitted

You have your eye on a certain facility and you notice that two of the four travel nurse agencies that you’re working with are offering a position that meets most of your criteria, but "agency B’s" package is way better than "agency A’s."

You give the recruiter from agency B permission to submit, but before you can get to disallowing the recruiter from agency A, they submit your application! Beyond being unhappy with what recruiter A did, you’re now worried: have you just shot yourself in the foot with a duplicate application? 

The short answer is most likely not

Most medical facilities who rely on travel nurses have become so accustomed to duplicate submissions from different travel nurse agencies that they now have methods in place to determine which agency’s application they’ll consider (if they determine that you’re a good fit for the position, of course).

If you end up in the situation above and you’re a perfect fit for the position, don’t be surprised if you get a chance in your interview to clarify the agency that you’d like to work with moving forward. 

So if things are fine with duplicate applications, why should you pay attention to Rule #2? Isn’t it smart to have your hat in the ring as many times as possible? 

Well, not exactly. You see, there’s a reason that our short answer was most likely not. There are a couple scenarios that can still happen that aren’t ideal for you if you’re facing the situation above. 

  1. The medical facility’s policy could be first-come-first-serve. This makes things a lot faster for the facility, since they don’t need to spend the time and (wo-)manpower confirming your agency preferences. And depending on the type of interview you have, you may not get the chance to ask about it until it’s too late. 
  2. A few facilities are still staunchly anti-duplicates. Yup, there are exceptions to nearly every rule, and you can count this as one of ‘em. Some facilities will hold this against you. Luckily, they’re a (shrinking) minority, so you shouldn’t be overly concerned. 

If a duplicate application does derail your plans, remember, there are plenty of other amazing opportunities out there, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t advocate for yourself and get your application switched to the agency you want to work with.

Duplicate applications, especially ones submitted without your permission (or against your will!), can also be a warning sign when it comes to your recruiter: you may want to look at whether you’re still comfortable working with this individual. 

Beware of recruiters that submit applications without your permission. Remember, a recruiter should be your advocate: they should amplify your voice in the job-searching process, not hinder or diminish it.


#4: Be Clear with All Sides

Sometimes, just like in dating, things don’t work out. And in many cases, this becomes clear really quickly.

The agency may not have assignments that meet your criteria. Or maybe the assignments that do meet your criteria don’t have competitive packages. It may even be the particular recruiter you’re working with. 

Regardless of the reason, if you realize that you’re not interested in working with a certain agency anymore, let the recruiter know up front. In an industry like travel nurse staffing, time is always of the essence, and it’s best to be honest and respect everyone’s time (including yours). 

Not only can you open yourself up to opportunities with new nurse staffing agencies that may be better suited to your needs, but you may also end up finding an opportunity with that first agency at a later point! Trust us, it’s always worth it to leave an agency on honest, up-front terms; they're familiar with this game.

With all of the information above, you should be ready to get started on your traveling adventure. If you're ready to start digging deeper into the travel process, come talk to us!