By August 5, 2009 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What happens to travel nurses when hospital decides to stop working with their travel nursing agency?


In keeping up with the travel industry, this week I wanted to write about a recent experience of mine in my travels. I had worked for the same travel company off and on for a about six or seven years now. Aside from the occasional hiccup (they didn’t have a contract in an area that I wanted to travel, etc.), I stayed with this company because I felt they did a good job with my assignments and I really liked my recruiter. Call it company loyalty or whatever you will, but I preferred to do most of my assignments through this company.

Earlier this year, I was told by the facility at which I worked that they would no longer be accepting contracts from outside agencies. So, everyone who was interested in staying for another contract would have to leave, OR, we could entertain another option, join the hospital’s travel agency.

You see, the hospital in which I worked was part of a large healthcare system that operated in a number of states, so they had formed their own travel company. As a way to cut out the middleman, and cut their costs for employing travelers, they mandated that everyone who wanted to stay would have to join THEIR travel company.

Now if a facility only wants to use travelers from their own travel agency, I suppose it is their right. However, there were quite a few travelers already working in my unit from various companies. All the travelers who were working with outside agencies had already signed an agreement, with those individual agencies, that we would only take subsequent assignments or extensions with that company. What the hospital was asking us to do was ignore those agreements and sign a subsequent contract with the hospital’s travel agency (I take that back; they weren’t asking).

Most of us liked working there and wanted to stay, but in order to do so, we had to turn our backs on our travel companies and join the hospital’s agency. If we had been with the company for a long time, we were giving up any loyalty bonuses and also vested retirement plans. That is to say nothing of the guilt that many of us felt telling our recruiters that we were going elsewhere with a different company (when in fact, we were not).

If you have been a traveler long enough, you know that most managers cannot even ask you to stay for an extension of your contract (they say it is “recruiting”). A manager at this same facility told me this very thing a few years ago when I had worked a few contracts for them. I guess when the hospital was later acquired by a large healthcare system, they changed the playbook.

Sometimes the world is a crappy place and big business often prevails. Now if I had gone on to do a few assignments with the hospital’s travel agency, I might have just chalked it up to the way life can be sometimes. However, to add insult to injury, most all of us travelers did one assignment with the hospital’s agency, and were then told that the facility was looking to phase out travelers. Yes, but they have hospitals all over right? They do, but when most of us called our recruiters at the healthcare facility travel agency, we were told that they had no positions available in the half dozen or so states in which they operate. So yes, we all left companies, with which many of us had worked with for years, to take ONE travel assignment with a hospital travel agency that put us all out to pasture after saving a few bucks.

I wrote this post, not to bitch, but to hopefully serve as a cautionary tale to anyone faced with the same situation. Can I say that ALL healthcare system based travel companies will operate this way? Certainly not, but when saving money is a primary motivator, and not necessarily placing that traveler in future assignments, you have to look long and hard at whether or not you want to leave a company that you trust (even to stay in a location you like, just a bit longer).

Please leave a comment below if you have any cautionary tales for other travelers about what things hospitals are doing in this economy that may not be for the good of the traveler.

First time bonus!

About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

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  1. Jason Lander says:

    This is a great post and think the situation you described above is unfortunate to say the least. It seems like somewhat of an unfair business practice to be honest. Especially since the travelers had no choice.

    Although being loyal to one agency is good for the agency and can potentially put you in better standing with them I think the best strategy for travelers is to sign up for multiple agencies. Especially in this economy. Stats show that most agency healthcare professionals work with 3-5 staffing agencies. They do this because it gives them a broader opportunity for jobs, as not every agency has a contract with the hospitals they want to work at.

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