Selecting the Right Travel Nurse Agency

We’ll now turn our attention to the keeper of the keys -- the travel agencies that have those lucrative and exotic travel assignments. (Okay, may be not all that exotic.) Let’s take a little closer look at how these Travel Nurse Agencies work, what they have to offer, and your role in the grand scheme of things.

Travel Nurse Agencies have contracted with healthcare facilities across the country (and some around the world) to place qualified, experienced nurses within their facilities -- normally for 13 week assignments. With plenty of travel nurse jobs to fill, they must now attract qualified nurses to fill these needs.

This is where it “gets good” for you. Since the competition among the travel nursing agencies is intense, the perks are constantly being upgraded to entice you to travel and stay with them.

And it’s not just the perks. More importantly, each Travel Nurse Agency knows it MUST provide you with first-rate, knock-your-socks off service! You are the life-blood of their existence. Each Travel Nurse Agency simply would cease to exist without qualified, experienced nurses to place. You, dear nurse, hold the keys to their future.

Important Factors in Selecting a Travel Nurse Agency

It’s important to “hitch your wagon” to winner. After all, the travel company you choose will be your employer during your travel assignment.

What makes a winner? Basically, how they take care of you! Do they listen to your personal goals and ambitions? Do they offer the features you’re looking for in this new traveling profession?

When it comes to evaluating travel agencies, the real qualification test is how they handle any concerns that arise. (Remember; “Murphy” is a frequent stowaway on many a traveler’s assignments. If things can go wrong, well.. sometimes they do.) Hey, things happen no matter how well planned, thought-out, and organized your trip is. How your agency intercedes, takes the lead, and handles the concern is the ultimate factor on whether it’s a “keeper”.

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Okay, I hear you. How are you suppose to know this BEFORE you travel? Fair Question – read on!

Learn from the experiences of those gone before you! Ask the company for references from travelers who’ve been with them for a trip or two. Call or email these references and ask their honest opinion regarding the travel company in question. How was their housing experience? Was their paycheck timely? Was someone available 24/7 to assist you if a problem arose?

You’ll find travelers to be extremely friendly and willing to share this type of information freely. Travel Nursing is like a brotherhood (errr.. SISTERhood) of fellow travelers.) Undoubtedly, most will welcome the opportunity to help out and share in their experiences.

Consideration Factors in Choosing a Travel Company

“You Better Shop Around”

Momma gave this sage advice to Captain and Tennille and it applies equally well here. Frankly, there are a lot of travel companies! Please take your time to research the different companies to find one that has the best package for you.

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Good News! Since you are the wise one who discovered, the lion’s share of your research will be accomplished for you. (ahh shucks, you’re welcome!) Instead of you spending your precious (and few) leisure hours scouting for the appropriate Travel Agency, yours truly will do the “grunt work” on your behalf. (More on this soon!)

Nurse, Know Thy Recruiter

The Recruiter is so vital to your traveling experience that an upcoming section is devoted to this important subject. Suffice to say, this person may well turn out to be your best friend, confidant, and the hardest working person you ever brought on your team. (Besides ‘yours truly’ of course!)

Your recruiter must listen to you, find out what you want out of a travel assignment, and then offer you suggestions and guidance in achieving those goals. Your recruiter should be willing to educate you on the process - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

More to follow about the special relationship between you and your recruiter. Just be sure there is a ‘connection’ with your recruiter. You both must be on the same page.


As an employee of the Traveling Nurse Agency and as their representative whilst on assignment, there is a contract that outlines your professional relationship. Don't sign a contract without fully understanding it. Ask questions. Lot’s of questions. Propose “what ifs”.

What If: you call in sick during your assignment, or What If: you had to leave for an emergency? Know in advance what the contract stipulates. You may owe some of your housing allotment back.

What If: the hospital takes you off the schedule due to a low census; will you be required to make up that time at the end of the contract? Now is the time to ask.

What If: you fall in love with your dream assignment and the facility wants to offer you full time employment? What If: during your assignment you find a great opportunity with a different travel agency? Will you be prohibited from switching agencies? Know in advance what your contract will and won’t allow.

Your Home away from Home

Housing is right up with pay when it comes to important issues for travelers. If you have a permanent residence someplace, your housing is rent free! Know what the travel agency’s housing options are beforehand.

Most agencies have a dedicated housing coordinator. It’s this person’s job to find a good, safe, clean environment for you during your assignment that’s relatively close to work.

Some questions to ask: Will my housing be a studio apartment? A one-bedroom apartment? Shared housing? If there is a roommate, you might first want to get acquainted with that person.

Most agencies now offer private housing. With some, it’s a perk you earn with your longevity. And with others, you can pay for a private ‘upgrade’.

“Roomies’ can be fun! More than one nurse has made a life-long friend with someone they met while sharing a room. If you are open to shared housing, a match will be made based on gender and smoking preference.

If you’re not interested in a roommate, either inquire about alternatives or seek another agency. Remember – this is all about YOU! Tailor the choices to your preferences.

Shalon Kearny, a seasoned traveler, wrote “Hitting the Road, A guide to Travel Nursing”. In her book, she shares her nine-year travel experiences and it’s an excellent read. Shalon does a great job detailing the factors we’ve covered here and much more. I highly recommend this book!

Shalon lists the following questions to ask the Housing Coordinator:

  1. Name, location, and contact information for apartment manager
  2. How close is the apartment to the hospital? Will I have pay for parking?
  3. Are a washer and dryer inside?
  4. Will I have my own private bath? (in shared housing)
  5. What amenities does the complex have?
  6. What do you furnish in the apartment besides furniture (microwave, TV)?
  7. What utilities are paid for, and what will I need to hook up ahead of time?
  8. What size beds are furnished?
  9. What can you tell me about my roommate? (shared housing)
  10. What can you tell me about the crime rate in the area?
  11. How many other travelers are residing in the complex?
  12. Any other potential cost involved with the housing?
  13. How soon can I move in, and what is the expected move-out date?

And here are a few more...

  • What is the dress code for the floor I will be working? (Some have specific colors of scrubs they use.
  • What type of med system & equipment do they use on the floor?
  • Will I have to pay for parking?
  • What floor is the apartment on?
  • Is it near railroad tracks? (for you night shifters. Toot-Toot!)

Health Insurance

The biggest question here is: When does coverage start? The first day of work? A month after you start? (It may begin on the first day of the month AFTER you’ve worked a month.) Confusing? Yup. Ask so you know.

Travel Reimbursement

You have to ‘travel’ to get to the travel assignment! What will the agency pay per mile to get you there? (Most travelers drive so they have transportation during the assignment. You DO want to sightsee, don’t you?)

There are some who fly to the destination and are provided rental cars! This is expensive and the cost may be reflected in your hourly salary. It’s worth an inquiry though.

Other Niceties that may be offered

License Reimbursement

There are many variables among travel agencies for reimbursing you for your license expense. Ask for the specifics.

Completion Bonus

These are normally offered by the hospital to the travel agency when – drum roll please -you complete the assignment. (surprise!) A good agency will in turn pass the bonus on to you. Not every assignment will have them. Completion Bonuses will also have contractual stipulations to them. Ask the What If question for this too.

Extension Bonus

If you decide to stay on the assignment LONGER than originally contracted, you may be entitled to an extension bonus or more money per hour. Negotiation time! (“It’s cheaper to keep her!”)

Education Reimbursement

This is a perk that may be offered. Many companies are now offering their own continuing education programs. Others will reimburse you the cost. Check it out.


A travel company wants a long-term relationship with you. Some agencies are getting quite creative in enticing you to stay with them. You may be offered vacation pay and or trips, 401k programs, discounts on a variety of goods and services, credit union membership, special VIP cards, and others. There are new programs being added all the time.

The downside with staying with one company is that they may not be able to offer you all the variations of assignments as you would like. But the additional bonuses and perks may be worth it to you to stay with them. This is especially true if you have a great recruiter.

Referral Bonus

New ‘recruits’ are the life blood of any travel nurse agency. You may be entitled to a nice bonus for simply referring your peers to your agency.

Parting Thoughts

To ensure you have a positive travel experience, be proactive in determining your career path. Determine exactly what you want to gain from this lifestyle and, during the interview process, inform both travel company and hospital recruiters of your needs. (We’ll touch on the hospital interview momentarily)

Most of the time, if your requests are reasonable, the travel company will be happy to accommodate them. If a specific point cannot be agreed upon, and you consider it a make-or-break issue, you still have the freedom to ask for a new assignment ...or even to select a different company.

After all, Travel Agency Recruiters want your mobile career to succeed as much as you do. They are well aware that an unhappy traveler may not perform up to par, and from a professional and financial standpoint, it’s in their best interest for you to be satisfied.

Be honest and open about your capabilities and interests during the interview process so you will be pleased with your assignment. And in the end, this will ultimately make the travel company more successful.

Ultimately, the possibilities are endless...and the choices are yours.

Where do you want to go today?

Selecting Your New Best Friend. Let's Recruit the Recruiter!