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How to Choose the Right Travel Agency

Are you getting recruiter calls from multiple agencies on a daily basis? Is your head spinning trying to figure out which agency is the best for you? How in the world do you decide which company to work with?

Once you’ve made the first, and most important, decision to start your career as a traveling healthcare professional, the second most important decision is choosing which agency to work with. This is a big decision that can make or break your experience as a travel nurse.  Let’s face it: your livelihood during those 13-weeks is in your agency’s hands. You need to know that your pay will be done correctly and on time, that you’ll have access to benefits in a timely fashion, that your housing will be suitable and ready upon your arrival, and that the client facility will be ready for you when you show up for orientation. To help you make this decision, we’ve compiled the list below, which discusses important things to look for in an agency before deciding on your travel nurse staffing partner:

Your Recruiter. Working for a great agency with a poor recruiter can be just as detrimental as working for a less than stellar company. You must be able to trust your recruiter’s advice and be confident they have your best interests in mind. You should make sure your recruiter is knowledgeable about the industry and facilities they work with, is detail-oriented, has good time management and customer service skills, and, most importantly, that you trust them to stick to their word. So many details go into placing a traveler on assignment that if something is missed, it can lead to a very bumpy road ahead.  If you have a gut feeling that your recruiter is not being honest with you or is not reliable, move on!  You do not have to become “best friends” with you recruiter, but you should have a solid business relationship built on trust so you can confidently say that your career and livelihood are in the best hands.

Benefits. How does the company present its benefits package? Make sure you really know what you’re getting. Agencies present their benefits packages differently, so you need to understand what is being offered before you commit to an assignment and sign a contract. For example, some companies present a job with an all-inclusive pay rate, and then if you want benefits such as health insurance or housing, the company reduces the pay rate. Other companies present a job with a base pay rate and accounts for benefits separately from the pay rate. Some companies do a combination of these two methods. Bottom line: ask questions so you know exactly what is included in your travel benefits package and there are no surprises when you get your first pay check.

Health Insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance is required for all Americans. Whether you choose to get insurance on your own or through your agency, it’s important to know what coverage you will receive, as all packages are NOT the same. Just because a company says its plan is free or starts on day one, that doesn’t mean they are offering a great plan. Ask about the quality of the plan, such as what is included and what the amount of your co-pays and deductibles will be. The last thing you want is to sign up for a plan that will cost you a $100 copay just to see a general practitioner. Some agencies invest more than others in their health plans, so know exactly what you are getting. And if you choose to get healthcare coverage on your own, make sure it’s a plan that will travel with you and is accepted from state to state.

Financial Stability. How financially stable is the agency? How long have they been in business? These are questions that travelers rarely think to ask, but they can be some of the most important questions of all. The last thing you want to do is start working for a company that goes out of business…and to find out on pay day that your paycheck has bounced. The most financially stable companies are often the ones that have the most contracts as hospitals also need to work with agencies that are financially sound.

Quality. Make sure you are working for a company that has a Quality Assurance or Risk Management department. You should determine: Is there a nurse or clinical liaison on staff to ensure you are being placed on assignment in the appropriate hospital/unit/setting? Is there a department to make sure you are compliant with the hospital’s requirements? Is there someone available to answer clinical questions and provide advice when you’re on assignment? Is the company Joint Commission certified or a member of the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO)? Hospitals prefer to work with companies that have these credentials so they know they are receiving travel professionals who are fully compliant with their high standards.

Taxes. The last thing you want is to owe a large amount of tax at the end of the year because your agency didn’t withhold tax on certain benefits or pay. Because certain advantages are available to traveling healthcare professionals, you want to be sure you are legally receiving those benefits. Verify with your personal tax accountant or an accountant who specializes in travel taxes to make sure the plan is compliant with IRS regulations.