When you decide to become a travel nurse it can be incredibly overwhelming because the truth is – until you do it yourself, it’s hard to truly understand what you’re getting into. But in my opinion, the most important place to start is with your travel nurse recruiter. And while I’m a BIG advocate of finding a recruiter that you love and sticking with them, that can be hard to do if you don’t have a referral for a good recruiter. (If you do want a referral, reach out to me on Instagram and I’ll give you mine, she’s fabulous!). Once you get your recruiter, you’ll want to “interview” them to make sure that you two are a good fit. Once you do that, everything else should be much less overwhelming because a good recruiter can make your experience easy peasy! (And on the flip side, a bad recruiter can ruin your experience). This post is designed to help guide you through the interview process and give you the best questions to ask a travel nurse recruiter so that you can set yourself up for success!
Before reading further, keep in mind that I usually suggest working with two recruiters from two different companies to maximize your chances of landing your dream travel nurse assignment. For more information on that, read this post. (By the way, I have my main recruiter – who you can contact by messaging me on Instagram – and I work with Host Healthcare who have a plethora of incredible recruiters that will reach out to you once you fill out this form).
Questions to Ask a Travel Nurse Recruiter BEFORE Looking for a Job
These are first-time questions that you’ll want to ask your recruiter when you’re deciding whether or not you two are a good fit. Think about these questions in a way that YOU are doing the interviewing. You’re interviewing the travel nurse recruiter, making sure that this is a good fit for you, before you decide to move forward and give the recruiter a piece of your paycheck. Because just like you want to work with a recruiter to land an assignment, they also want to work with you to get paid. It’s a two-way street.
1. What sets your nursing agency apart from others? What do you like about working for your agency?
This is a great question to start with because while a recruiter (not a company) can make or break your experience as a travel nurse, the company still has guidelines that each recruiter needs to follow. Sure, recruiters can loosely follow these guidelines, but what you really want to get a feel for is whether or not the travel nurse company has your best interest at heart.
I also like to ask the recruiter what they like about working for their company because it gives you insight into what’s important to your recruiter and a bit more background about the company too!
2. How long have you been a recruiter?
While this question won’t necessarily make you NOT work with this specific recruiter, it’s nice to know how much experience they have. Of course, the more experienced a recruiter the more flexible they can be and the more they understand the landscape of travel nursing. But this doesn’t mean that new recruiters are no good.
My main recruiter has been a recruiter for almost 10 years now! DM me on Instagram if you want her information.
3. Do you have any testimonials from past/current travelers?
Just like you might ask a landlord for past reviews, it’s totally okay to ask your recruiter for past reviews! In fact, some companies will send out emails asking you to review your recruiter and then they will keep those reviews to share with those who ask. Again, you are interviewing your recruiter. You want to be working with someone who is laid back and easy to get along with, but still on top of things. After all, you are giving a portion of your paycheck to this recruiter.
If you plan to work with my recruiter, you don’t need to ask her for testimonials because I’m leaving mine here 😉 – “Jess is an incredible recruiter. She’s always on top of things, answers when I need her, and is quick to relay information to me. I’ve been working with Jess for years and I’ve always enjoyed her; I can’t wait to continue our relationship in the future.”
4. Does your company staff in all 50 states?
You definitely want to ask this question because if you’re aiming to get to a specific state and then that company doesn’t staff there, it’s pretty silly to move forward with your recruiter. This should be one of the first questions that you ask!
5. Besides you as my recruiter, who else will I work with from your company on this assignment?
When you sign a contract with a company, you’ll be dealing with many more people than just your recruiter. There’s usually a compliance officer, someone in payroll, someone in benefits, the list goes on! Make sure that you understand who else you’ll be interacting with throughout your assignment so you’re not surprised when someone who isn’t your recruiter contacts you.
6. Will I have constant access to you if I need anything during my assignment?
Before I found my “main” recruiter (again, I always recommend working with more than one) – I used to work with a recruiter who was NEVER available. I would be missing my paycheck and my recruiter would be missing in action – for weeks. And while I don’t need someone to be available to me 24/7, I do need to know the boundaries that my recruiter has set around his/her phone use.
Also, if your recruiter isn’t going to be available at all times, who is? Is there an emergency service that you’re able to call?
7. If something goes wrong during my assignment, what resources are available to me?
Another great question to ask is if something were to happen on assignment, are there resources available? For instance, if you were to get canceled early by the facility does your company help you out with any costs that you incurred to get to the assignment? Do they help you out with housing if you’ve signed a three-month lease but get canceled after one-month? If there’s an emergency and you need to get home as soon as possible, do they help with that?
Of course, the longer you work with a company, the more that they are inclined to offer you. But it’s still a good question to ask to see how your recruiter will respond.
8. Do you have any assignments that you would recommend to me given my experience and feedback you’ve gotten from past travelers?
If you’re flexible, and unsure where you want to go, make sure to ask if the recruiter recommends a specific destination or hospital! I landed my one of my favorite assignments in Phoenix, Arizona because my recruiter suggested it and Phoenix was never even on my radar!
9. What benefits does your company offer? When will they begin and end?
Every company offers different benefits, so you’ll want to make sure you know what they are and how much they will cost before signing a contract. You’ll also want to know when benefits start and end because again – each company does things a bit differently.
10. Does your company reimburse for travel expenses? Do you offer any other bonuses throughout the assignment?
Almost every company out there reimburses for travel expenses to get to and from your assignment. This is usually a set price (depending how far you’re going) and will be split in half – you’ll receive half on your first paycheck, and half on your last paycheck. You’ll also want to ask if there are any other bonuses offered or any type of completion bonus offered.
Some common bonuses that I hear of are companies offering are – extra $ after working a specific number of hours with that company, and an extra day of PTO incentive once you’ve worked a certain number of hours.
Lastly, if there is a completion bonus offered, make sure that this is not contingent on you finishing your assignment. If the facility cancels you early, you still want to get the bonus as that wasn’t your fault. I would try to work this into each paycheck versus receiving it at the end of the assignment.
11. Will the company reimburse me for licensure and certification fees?
Any of the (good) companies generally reimburse for licenses and certifications without batting an eye. You’ll usually need to show proof of receipt, but this is paid out pretty easily. Some companies make a big fuss about it, but overall this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
12. Will I be reimbursed for any continuing education expenses/does the company offer any resources for this?
Another thing you should be reimbursed for is any continuing education fees that you have to pay for to maintain your license. Also, some companies have deals with specific continuing education sites so you might get offered a membership at a discount.
13. Do you offer direct deposit and when will I get paid?
Generally, direct deposit should be offered and you should get paid weekly. Some companies pay out bi-monthly and some companies pay out daily, however neither of these things are the norm.
14. Are there any penalties if there’s an emergency and I have to quit my assignment unexpectedly?
As long as it’s a true emergency, a good company should not penalize you for needing to quit your assignment early. But this is a good question to ask because you do want to be aware if there will be a penalty.
A “penalty” generally means that you either have to pay back some of the money you earned on assignment, or you’re black-listed from ever working with that company again.
15. Do you help with finding housing or do I find my own?
Most travel nurse companies do help with housing, however you will make more money if you find your own housing. (If you don’t understand your paycheck, you can read about that here). With that being said, if finding your own housing completely overwhelms you and it isn’t something that you look forward to – have your company do it! Sometimes less money in your pocket is worth the peace of mind.
Questions to Ask Your Travel Nurse Recruiter BEFORE Being Submitted to a Job
Once you’ve picked a recruiter that you like, and you’re ready to have him/her start looking for a job for you, there are still important questions that you should ask. These relate more to the facility that you’re being submitted to and have less to do with your recruiter. Below you’ll find the questions that you should ask before your recruiter submits you to a job.
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16. What’s the pay rate at this facility?
Before being submitted to a job, you HAVE to ask what the pay rate is first. That’s because once you’re submitted, you’ve lost all negotiating power (because you can’t be submitted to the same job twice). So not only do you need to know what your pay is (I like to ask what my gross pay and my net pay is), but I also ask for a copy of the contract before being submitted.
17. What’s the floating policy at this facility?
You’ll definitely want to know if this facility floats their travelers and how often this happens. Make sure that if they do float they will only be floating you to appropriate floors i.e. NICU to PICU not NICU to adult med-surg. You’ll also want to make sure that your pay does not decrease due to floating. (This is a policy that American Mobile has in place).
18. In your experience, does this facility extend travelers?
If you’re potentially interested in extending your contract because you’d rather stay in one place a bit longer, ask if the facility has a history of extending travelers! Of course, this does not mean that you’re guaranteed to be extended, but at least you’ll know whether or not it’s an option.
19. Are there guaranteed hours at this hospital and what’s the cancelation policy at this hospital?
It’s so, so, so important to understand what the facility’s cancelation policy is. This will significantly impact your pay if you are to get canceled for a shift. Ideally, you want to work at a facility that offers guaranteed hours as that means even if you get canceled, you’ll receive your full pay. Some facilities will cancel “three times in one assignment” or “one time every two weeks” – make sure that you understand what this means.
Once you know the cancelation policy, you’ll want to ask the recruiter if this will affect your stipends at all. Some companies will take away your housing/meal stipend for each facility cancelation – even if it isn’t your fault that you were canceled. That’s why it’s important to have guaranteed hours.
20. Do I have the option of choosing whether I work the day shift or night shift?
Generally, you’ll get a choice if you want to work days or nights. Of course, some facilities will only offer one or the other, but a lot of facilities offer both shifts. Whether or not you want to work the shift that you don’t prefer is completely up to you! You don’t have to submit to a night shift position (or a day shift position) unless you want to.
For tips on working the night shift, don’t miss:
21. How many hours/week is this assignment and how long is this assignment?
Generally, a travel nurse assignment is 13-weeks with a 36-hour work week. However, COVID kind of switched things up. Now assignments can range from a few weeks to six months, and contracts can be up to 48-hours/week. Make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into before singing on the dotted line.
22. What’s the overtime rate and how is that paid out?
If you’re interested in picking up extra shifts, you’ll want to know the overtime rate and how it’s paid out. Generally, travel nurses don’t make a good enough overtime rate to make working overtime worth it, but that’s up to you to decide! This is because the best way to maximize your pay is to drop your hourly rate and raise your stipends. So travelers generally make a low hourly rate (this changes depending on what state you’re in), but if you’re making $20/hour and overtime is time and a half then you’ll only be making $30/hour after 40-hours.
23. If I’m sick and miss hours, is there any additional penalties that I will incur aside from losing my hourly pay?
Some companies will run you through the ringer if you’re sick and miss a day of work. Not only will you not get your hourly pay (unless you’ve negotiated PTO), but you also typically won’t receive your housing stipend and meal stipend for the week (depending on how many days you’ve missed). That’s why it’s so important as a traveler to show up to work – unless you truly can’t.
24. Can I request time off during my assignment?
If you need a couple of days off during your assignment, it’s definitely okay to request it! Where you’re going to want to be careful is requesting multiple days off or requesting holidays off if you’re a brand new traveler. I would also ask your recruiter if the time you’re requesting off is too much time in their opinion. They should be able to give you an honest answer if you’re asking for too many days. (Asking for too many days off makes you less desirable of a candidate and the facility may pass up your application and choose someone who has requested fewer days off instead).
25. Will you tell me before you submit me to this assignment?
This question needs to be at the top of your question list and needs to be asked every time you speak with a new recruiter. It is absolutely NOT okay to be submitted to an assignment without your knowledge. This is because once you’re submitted, you cannot be submitted with a different company. Shady recruiters will submit you with a lower pay package so that you’re unable to work with another company offering a higher pay package.
Read more: 7 Red Flags in Travel Nursing
Questions to Ask Your Travel Nurse Recruiter AFTER Accepting a Job
Once you’ve signed your contract, the work isn’t quite over. Below you’ll find a list of questions that you’ll want to ask your travel nurse recruiter after you accept a job, and before starting the job.
26. What is the onboarding process like at this facility?
Every facility has a different onboarding process so make sure you know what your facility’s is so that you know what to expect. Sometimes you’re required to complete modules before you show up for your first day, sometimes those modules will be done in a classroom on your first week. You’ll also want to know how many days of hospital orientation you will receive and unit orientation.
27. What can I expect on my first day?
So that you’re less overwhelmed when you show up on your first day, make sure that you know exactly what to expect. You’ll want to know where you’re going, what you’re supposed to wear (business casual or scrubs), if you need to bring anything with you, if there will be testing on the first day, etc.
28. What color scrubs am I supposed to wear?
It’s great to know ahead of time if you’re going to need a new scrub color. If you are required to wear a specific scrub color that you don’t have (and the hospital doesn’t provide), I recommend asking your recruiter if they can reimburse for this expense.
My favorite scrubs are Wear FIGS – use this link to receive $20 off your first order.
29. What computer charting system does this facility use?
Regardless of whether or not you have experience with the specific computer charting system used at the facility, you will almost always sit through a class on how to use the charting system. So don’t stress out if you aren’t familiar with the charting. But this is a good question to ask so that you know what you’re walking into.
30. How will I submit my pay stub at this facility?
Of course, everyone wants to get paid correctly and on time. Make sure that you know exactly how to clock your hours and how to submit your pay stub. Every facility does this differently so it can be confusing to keep track of. But your recruiter should be able to send you a cheat sheet before arrival! Also make sure that your orientation hours are correctly tracked because you probably won’t be able to clock in and out on your first day.
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There’s so much to know about travel nursing, it’s a beast of a subject. But I hope that this gives you a good starting point and you can figure it out from here! As always, if you have any questions about travel nursing or questions to ask your recruiter, let me know in the comments below.