I had the pleasure of sitting down with my travel nurse recruiter for a live Instagram session talking all things – travel nursing! My recruiter, Jessica, answered some of the most common travel nurse questions and shares all of her knowledge on things like pay, what not to do as a new travel nurse, the best places to travel, and more! Her knowledge of travel nursing is incredible and she’s been such a bright light to me while I’ve been on this journey of travel nursing.
Jessica became a travel nurse recruiter after working in the corporate world in Omaha, Nebraska when she decided that it wasn’t for her. She didn’t like the “professional” aspect and dressing up for work every day. She is who she is and that’s what I love about working with her! She has a “no bullshit” approach to travel nursing.
So let’s get to it! These are some of the most common travel nurse questions and my recruiter’s response to them…
13 Common Travel Nurse Questions
As a recruiter, what is your best piece of advice for new travel nurses?
Find a recruiter that you click with! It’s important because we essentially have your life in our hands. We need to be available to you at all times in case you need anything. Your recruiter should 100% know you… and no, not your favorite color. We should know what you like to do and what you don’t like to do so that we can better guide you into a travel nurse assignment appropriate for you.
My advice: Treat travel nursing as a business. If you don’t click with your recruiter find another one! This isn’t something that should be taken personally and any good recruiter won’t be offended if you switch to someone new.
For more on picking a travel nurse recruiter, read these posts:
When is a good time of the year to start travel nursing?
A good time to start travel nursing is around the fall because there are tons of fall and winter needs. My favorite places to staff people (Phoenix and Seattle) tend to release tons of needs around October. This is because a lot of staff members don’t like to work over the holidays so hospitals are looking to hire travel nurses.
A bad time to start travel nursing is January! Everyone wants to travel in January so the market is very saturated. Plus all the staff members who took time off for the holidays are going back to work in January.
To what extent do you get to pick the city you end up in?
This is my take. Give your recruiter a general idea of what you’re looking for – city and state – and WHY. If I don’t know why you want to go somewhere, we may be missing out on so many opportunities! For instance, if you want to go to Denver because you want to be with a friend then that is a different reason than wanting to go to Denver to snowboard. If you want to go to Denver to snowboard then I can recommend other places for that in case there aren’t any needs in Denver. For instance, Reno is also an incredible place to go if you want to snowboard. Every travel nurse that I send there absolutely loves it!
One thing that’s hard as a recruiter is when someone wants the highest dollar in the best location. I want to give travelers everything they want, but sometimes I can’t do that and that is a really hard part of my job.
My opinion: Those popular jobs are popular for a reason! People will always want to go to places like Hawaii and Denver. The hospitals don’t need to pay very much because the positions will always be filled.
How much experience do you recommend having before becoming a travel nurse?
I recommend at least two years of experience before traveling. If you have two years’ experience plus a travel nurse assignment under your belt – even better! If you’re open to going anywhere – middle of nowhere North Dakota – that will be easy to place you even if you have a little bit less experience.
Also, if you want to be a travel nurse don’t switch specialties when you’re new. If you start on a Med-Surg floor and gather six months of experience and then move into the ER and at the two-year mark say “I have two years of experience now I can travel”, that doesn’t equate. You need two years of experience on one floor.
My experience: I’ve never had an issue getting a job after two years. However, my first two travel nurse assignments were in Nebraska. While I found a job easily, I wasn’t able to get a job in the places I wanted like Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston. Now that I’ve been traveling for a long time it’s easy to get to exactly where I want to go!
Looking to start travel nursing?
What are the most needed specialties in the travel nurse world?
Usually the OR! It seems like there’s always a shortage of OR nurses. There also always seems to be needs for labor and delivery nurses and never enough L&D nurses to go around!
Any suggestions for a new grad who wants to get into travel nursing in the future?
Educate yourself! I don’t mean to educate yourself on Facebook pages (those are so negative). Think about it… if you go to a restaurant and have a terrible experience you tell EVERYONE about your awful experience. But if you go to a restaurant and have a great experience, you only tell a few people. Positively educate yourself.
My advice: Utilize these Facebook groups to make friends! I am a part of multiple travel nurse Facebook groups but don’t necessarily look to them for advice. Instead, I look to them to create community and meet people who may be where I am going and trying to go. I also have my own Facebook group (Passports and Preemies Travel Community) that focuses heavily on the travel aspect of travel nursing. If you’re looking to be part of a community it’s a positive place to be!
Can you switch specialties while travel nursing?
I’ve had that happen before… a traveler of mine switched from PACU to IR. The way you can do this is by slowly gaining experience on a different floor. A few hospitals are willing to help train travelers into new positions on different floors.
When is the right time to reach out to a recruiter if you want to start travel nursing?
Probably around the 4-5 month mark. This is because needs typically get posted 4-6 weeks in advance. I advise you to reach out a few weeks before needs are posted so that we can get your profile completed. This includes your skills checklist, your resume, and get your references in order.
The thing not to do is reach out a year in advance. So much can change in a year… you can get married, have kids, and not want to travel anymore. If someone reaches out to me a year in advance I try to my best to keep in touch but it’s hard. People forget about the conversations you’ve had and it doesn’t usually end up working out.
What specialties are in the highest demand and make the most money?
The PICU, CICU, L&D and OR.
How do you negotiate for more money? Whenever I try my recruiter says, “That’s the best I can do”.
Jessica (recruiter): When a recruiter says, “That’s the best they can do”… honestly, a lot of times it is. A good way to negotiate is to say, “Can you try to go to this $”. Don’t be crazy and ask for hundreds of dollars more but if you ask for a fair price it’s usually easier to negotiate. If they can’t meet you at the price if you’ve asked, instead ask them to meet you in the middle.
Me: It’s hard for a new travel nurse when a recruiter says that’s the best I can do but then you get to the floor and you’re making much less than everyone else! I’ve been places where I made over $200 less than everyone else on my floor. As a new nurse, this is upsetting! What are your thoughts?
Jessica (recruiter): Some recruiters don’t tell the truth and that sucks and gives us all a bad reputation. I need more information when this happens. I get so mad when someone else is making more than one of my travelers because that makes me look like an asshole. If that’s the case I ask my traveler if they can take a screenshot of their pay package so that I can see what’s going on.
You need to educate yourself on how this all works. The hospital gives you a bill rate and sometimes there’s a middle man involved. That company (or “middle man”) gives us a different rate than they have and they are also able to take money out of your pay package and keep it for themselves. In those instances, those travelers with those companies make much more money.
My advice: As awkward as it is, we need to make money in travel nursing more transparent. We can do this by asking each other what we are each taking home. This is something I used to shy away from but it’s necessary to learn and keep recruiters accountable. But keep in mind that if your pay differs by a little bit, there are many factors at play! Is that person taking money out for health insurance? Do they have a 401k? Etc.
A tip: I would never, ever call a recruiter and ask for a pay package and then turn around and take that information to another recruiter. I think that it is wrong to make a recruiter do all of that work all the while knowing you won’t work with them. BUT if a recruiter approaches me about a specific job then I ask about the pay package for a reference point. I then ask them to email me that pay package and keep it in my file so that I can keep tabs on what pay looks like in different locations. Remember, for recruiters to put pay packages together it takes a LONG time. If you’re just playing the system then you’re taking time away from travelers who are desperately looking for jobs!
What are some things you should not be doing as a new travel nurse when first speaking with recruiters?
Do not say, “I don’t care about pay, I’ll go wherever”. The reason you shouldn’t do this is that then, a recruiter can just take double the margin that they are supposed to because you said you didn’t care about money. Instead say, “Pay is important to me, but my number one reason for traveling is to experience new things”.
Should you stick with only one travel nurse company? What are the pros and cons?
My favorite way to put this is – you need your main chick and your side chick. You have your main recruiter and if your main recruiter can’t get you what you want and isn’t satisfying your needs… you go to your side chick instead.
The worst thing to do is to talk with more than two recruiters. People that work with five recruiters forget where they are submitted and don’t have a personal relationship with the recruiters. To be honest, if someone calls me and tells me that they are working with tons of recruiters I don’t prefer to work with them. I want to invest in someone who truly wants to work with me. For these reasons, I recommend two recruiters max. Also, this is so that you don’t forget who submits you to what hospital.
My opinion: One recruiter can’t do everything all the time. They are human too! I work with multiple recruiters to make sure that I don’t miss needs opening up in hospitals that I want to work in. Plus each company doesn’t staff every single hospital. If there is a hospital you want to go to ask the company if they staff there, if not reach out to your “side” company and see if they staff where you want to go.
Why did you pick Fusion? What makes Fusion stand out compared to the hundreds of other companies out there?
It’s all about management and culture! Fusion encourages “work hard to play hard”. I love the culture, Fusion feels like family to me.
If you’re in the market for a new recruiter or you are a nurse who is looking into becoming a travel nurse, I highly recommend Jessica. You can best contact her by emailing her at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do reach out to her, please don’t forget to mention that you’ve read this interview and/or that I have referred you. It means a lot to me to have your support! If you have more questions that you’d like answered as always, you can find me on Instagram and I’d be happy to answer your questions there.