How to Choose the Best Travel Nurse Staffing Agency

Traveling for pleasure can be stressful at times. Between the planning, reserving, and awkward conversations with your Airbnb host, it can get pretty exhausting. Traveling for work can be even more taxing. When you’re required to travel frequently, or have to travel to a less-than-ideal location, it can really put a damper on your wanderlust spirit. Fortunately, most people have a smartphone that helps them plan, navigate, and communicate in an unfamiliar place. Still, what if you’re in an area with poor cellphone service? Imagine not being able to pull up Google Maps to help you get around town, or scout out the good eats on Yelp. Well, that’s how traveling was for everyone before the social media revolution. Your phone can only get you so far, and especially when you’re traveling for work, it’s helpful to have a live human with experience you can look to for guidance. For travel nurses, staffing agencies like Axis can act as your personal travel agency, ready to help you tackle the logistics of relocation. Unfortunately, choosing a staffing agency can be a daunting process. While everyone’s needs are unique, there are several main factors that play into the decision-making process, such as pay, location, and company policies. We’ve done the research, and outlined what’s crucial to consider when choosing the right agency for you.

1. What Do They Pay?

It’s all about the Benjamins! Pay is one of the top reasons staff nurses choose to become travel nurses. If you’re interested in making the switch, it’s a good idea to compare the rates offered by different agencies, and be sure to consider how benefits will affect your take-home pay. Things like your nursing specialty, facility demand, and your tax status also factor into your pay package. At Axis, our Rock Star Recruiters will ensure your weekly pay is competitive based on your experience, and the pay package is tailored to fit your needs. Keep in mind that compensation can sometimes be dependent on the contract & client. If you get an offer that seems low, it might not be indicative of their typical compensation. Likewise, if you get an offer that seems high, you might not always be able to get an assignment at that rate.


2. Identify Your Ideal Destinations

We’re assuming you’re interested in travel nursing, because you like to travel in some capacity! In a BluePipes survey, travel nurses cited job location as one of the most important factors in their search—either because they want to be close to home, explore a new city, or travel in a new region. Some agencies only offer jobs in certain locations, or with specific healthcare providers. Knowing the destinations you’re most interested in will help you narrow your search to the agencies that staff those areas. Flexibility is key to receiving a plethora of potential travel assignments, but the travel destination isn’t something you want to be too flexible with. Remember, your contract is going to be 13 weeks long, so it’s important to consider the type of environment you would feel most comfortable in: Are you more comfortable in warmer climates vs. colder climates? Do you thrive in a fast-paced high-volume healthcare setting or would you prefer a more laid-back setting? Do you want to live close to the ocean or the mountains? If you accept an assignment that doesn’t meet your personal standards, you could end up having a bad experience, and your staffing agency certainly doesn’t want that to happen. Direct communication with your recruiter is critical, so they don’t waste your time pitching you jobs that don’t meet your criteria.

Looking for your next travel assignment? Search our gigs here.

3. Find A Good Recruiter

Speaking of recruiters, we have some of the best in the industry! When your career is in the hands of a recruiter, a trusting relationship is paramount. A good rapport with your recruiter goes a long way towards reaching your goals as a travel nurse. Your recruiter should take the time to listen to your concerns, and in turn, you should feel comfortable expressing your needs and aspirations to your recruiter. Look for a company that has good reviews on platforms that feature real feedback from actual nurses. Sites like BluePipes, Travel Nursing Central, Gypsy Nurse, and Highway Hypodermics are all great resources. Your recruiter should reach out to you regularly, but once you have an idea of the types of assignments you want, there’s no harm in reaching out yourself to get the ball rolling.

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4. Do They Offer Housing?

It can be tricky to find temporary housing when you don’t know the area super well, and your living situation is a big component of your overall happiness. A good staffing agency will go above and beyond to provide options for decent housing, and your recruiters will have a ton of inside knowledge about temporary housing in your new area. Housing options can range from mobile homes, to apartments, to muti-bedroom suburban dwellings, but it’s all about picking the best choice for your situation. Are you going to be traveling with your family or solo? What kind of amenities do you want in your temporary home? What will your commute to work look like? These would be factors to consider and discuss with your recruiter before you commit. Generally, there are two different paths you can take when it comes to housing:

Agency-provided housing. Many agencies provide sponsored housing for their employees. These options are often dependent on the location of your assignment and the accommodations available in that area. In any case, be sure to ask about the conditions of their housing. Will the house be furnished? Are utilities included? These benefits affect the cost which in turn will affect how much is left for you pay, so be thorough.

A housing stipend. If you want the flexibility to choose your own housing, this is a great option. You’ll rarely find that agencies will house you in a room in someone’s home, however this is an option that a lot of Travelers take advantage of to minimize housing costs and maximize take home pay.

5. Which Benefits Are Necessary?

Benefits are great, but the freedom to pick and choose your benefits is even better! It’s helpful to consider which benefits you truly need, if you want to save money. If you have health insurance outside of work, or you have your own retirement savings, it may not be necessary to select a medical or 401k plan. Find an agency that offers the flexibility to choose the benefits you need and opt-out of the ones you don’t.

Additionally, a benefit that not many think about is overtime availability and rate. Many staffing agencies will offer a special rate for overtime, so it’s definitely wise to ask about your compensation in case you find yourself staying late or picking up additional shifts. Overtime rates can vary based on the facility, location, or whether it’s recognized after 36 or 40 hours per week, so definitely ask to ensure you’re being fairly compensated for that extra time!

You may also like:  Top 5 Benefits of Travel Nursing

 6. Look For Flexible Policies

While it’s understandable to hold travelers accountable for missing shifts, sometimes life happens, and agencies can also penalize nurses for things that are out of their control. If your shift is canceled by the hospital, are you penalized? What if you miss a shift because you’re sick? It’s important to ask about a prospective agency’s policies to ensure that you’re protected. The best travel nursing agencies will have forgiving policies relating to missed and canceled shifts. While some agencies mirror the canceled shift policies of the hospital they’re contracted with, many offer guaranteed hours to their nurses to protect their base pay rate. Ask your agency if they advocate for 100% guaranteed hours.

What about Fido? Being gone for 13 weeks on assignment can put a strain on your personal relationships, and for some people, their pet is a vital part of their life. Staffing agencies that look out for the furry members of your family, as well as your human family, demonstrate that they’re willing to go the extra mile to take care of what matters most to you.


7. Onboarding Matters

When you’re starting a new career, or transitioning into a different role, you want assurance of a smooth onboarding process. Nobody likes stressing over forms or checklists that your employer just hands you without any guidance. At Axis, the days of endless paperwork are long gone! The onboarding process is all online and streamlined, so all your required forms and checklists are in one convenient location. All you have to do is provide the resume! However, it’s in your best interest to be thorough when filling out your application. A detailed resume with your work experience, acquired skills, and special accolades clearly outlined, goes a long way in making sure your application doesn’t get lost in the pipeline. Plus, it makes it easier for your recruiter to advocate on your behalf when following up with facilities. While you won’t experience onboarding until you’ve actually committed to working with an agency, you will see negative reviews from nurses if their onboarding process is lacking. Another good sign of a cohesive onboarding experience is assistance with licensing. It’s generally a good sign if your agency offers assistance or reimbursement for obtaining your registered nurse license, and they can point you in the right direction if there are any special certifications you need for a particular assignment. Once again, sites like Bluepipes are a great resource for comparing reviews of different agencies.

While choosing an agency can feel overwhelming, these strategies will help you find a company that fits your needs, values your time, and takes your career as a travel nurse to the next level. At the end of the day, healthcare professionals like you are the heart and soul of our business. At Axis, you are the Rock Stars that keep our business afloat, and if agencies don’t strive to give you the Rock Star treatment, they are an agency that doesn’t deserve you.


Sam Miller