December 07, 2020

5 Tips for Comparing Travel Nurse Agencies

Whether you’re new to travel nursing or a travel nurse veteran, one of the most important aspects of working as a travel nurse is finding a travel nursing agency that is reliable and that you trust. But, with so many travel nurse agencies to choose from, how do you pick the right one? In this blog, we are going to break down the top 5 tips for comparing travel nurse agencies.

Comparing Travel Nurse Agencies

When it comes to selecting a travel nurse agency that is right for you, there are a lot of things to consider. Let’s break them down from most to least important.

Tip #1 – Travel Nurse Agency Reputation

First and foremost, before you even begin comparing travel nurse agencies to one another you should investigate the reputation of each travel nurse agency. This will help you to further narrow your search and ensure you are comparing only the top agencies. But, where do you start? How can you find out more about an agency’s reputation? Here are four places to start.

  • BBB - The Better Business Bureau is a great starting point when you’re looking to find out more information about a particular travel nurse agency or any company in general. As they mention in their vision statement, the ‘BBB’s vision is an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other.’ Essentially, the BBB is a non-profit platform that users can use to search for a business, file complaints with a business, and/or write reviews in an anonymous, honest, and unbiased way. Companies can also become accredited through an application process that allows the BBB to determine if the business meets its accreditation standards. However, this accreditation does not mean that the BBB evaluated or endorses the company’s products or services in any way, it simply means that the company meets its standards. 

    While the BBB is a great starting place to learn more about a travel nurse agency, please keep in mind that just because a business is not accredited with the BBB DOES NOT mean that you should automatically write it off. In fact, to get accredited with the BBB, a company must pay a fee. So, if the company has a small marketing budget or is new to the industry then it may not have applied for accreditation. Instead, you should focus on the content provided about the company and its overall business rating. 

  • Glassdoor – Another great place to learn more about a travel nurse agency’s reputation is through their Glassdoor account. If you haven’t heard of Glassdoor it’s basically a platform that current and past employees can use to rate, review, and talk about companies they have worked with or for. It’s an honest, transparent way for a future employee to learn more about the pros and cons of working with the company. The most important aspect of a company’s Glassdoor account lies in its anonymous reviews. For an employee to write a review, they must have an account with Glassdoor (this helps to prevent bots from writing fake reviews for or against a company). Within each review, the employee must rate the following: 

    • Whether or not they recommend the company,

    • Whether or not they think this company has a positive outlook, and

    • Whether or not they approve of the CEO

    Then, within the review itself, the employee has the ability to write about the pros and cons of working with the company. This feature is important because a reviewer must fill out both sections. Requiring the user to write something they consider a con of the company allows even the most raving reviews to have an imperfect aspect. Because really…no company is perfect.

    The best part about Glassdoor is that while a company can create and build up their company profile… they CANNOT delete reviews written about their company. This is especially important because it provides more authentic and honest reviews of each company. 

  • Google Reviews – Google reviews are another place to learn more about a travel nurse agency’s reputation. These reviews are quick and easy to write, so companies tend to have more reviews here than on other platforms. However, because these reviews are so easy to write it’s important to take them with a grain of salt. For Google reviews, beware of bots, spam, and overly positive or negative reviews because they may not be authentic.

  • Niche Job Boards – Lastly, another place to consider looking for reviews and learning a little bit more about a travel nurse company’s reputation is through a travel nurse job board. These job boards are highly targeted and designed to help you cut through the noise of other, more generic job boards. However, something to keep in mind is that unlike Glassdoor, companies tend to pay a fee or membership to be listed on a niche job board. Therefore, many times niche job boards will not post negative reviews of their clients. 

    Overall, as you review a travel nurse agency’s reputation keep in mind that having some negative reviews is common and can actually be good because that means the company isn’t hiding anything. Instead of focusing on only bad reviews, consider the number of reviews and the overall theme of the reviews. If most of the reviews are nothing but negative comments, run for the hills! But, if most of the comments are positive with a few negative comments sprinkled in, then there’s no major cause for concern. 

Tip #2 – Look at the Benefits

After reviewing the reputations of multiple travel nurse agencies, you should now be able to narrow down your list to your top 3-5 agencies. Then, it’s time to look at what they offer. Here are some of the things that you should look at when it comes to offerings and benefits.

  • Guaranteed Hours – When it comes to general offerings, one of the most important things to consider looking at is whether or not the travel nurse agency is offering you guaranteed hours. This is important because if you’re uprooting your life and traveling to a location you’ve never been to it’s important that you’re actually working, not having some or all of your shifts cancelled. 

  • Health Insurance – This one should be a no-brainer. Is the agency offering health insurance? Can you get it the first day you work? What about in-between assignments? What does the insurance cover? How much will it cost you? These are important things to consider before you agree to start working for a travel nurse company. 

  • Housing & Travel Benefits – Other important benefits to consider when comparing are their travel nurse housing and travel benefits. Is housing provided? What about a housing or rental car stipend? Are they willing to cover your travel expenses to each assignment? These are all things that can add up and take away from your paycheck, so it’s important to find out what housing and travel benefits each agency offers before you sign a contract.

  • Financial Benefits – On top of guaranteed hours, health insurance, and housing and travel benefits, here are some other benefits to consider and/or ask about:

    • Licensing Reimbursement 

    • CEU Reimbursement

    • Retirement Plan

    • Flexible Payment Options

    • Pay for Physical Exams

    • Pay for Drug Testing

    Depending on your situation and how far you’re traveling some of these benefits might be important to you whereas others may not. At the end of the day, it’s important to determine which benefits, offerings, and/or perks of the job are most important to you and your needs and finding a travel nurse agency that can accommodate them. 

Tip #3 – Travel Nurse Pay

Another important factor to consider when comparing travel nurse agencies is what type of pay the agency is offering. Travel nurse pay varies for a variety of different reasons including, but not limited to:

  • Specialty 

  • Location

  • Schedule

  • Benefits, and

  • Tax Options

So, be sure to keep these in mind when comparing travel nurse pay between agencies.

When comparing pay options, it is also important to keep in mind that many travel nurse agencies offer tax-free reimbursements and stipends while you’re traveling away from your tax-home. For example, if you take a higher hourly taxed salary and sacrifice your non-taxed money your pay package may be lower even though your salary is higher. However, be wary of salaries that are extremely low with high stipends. While this may seem like the best way to get more money in your pocket, the IRS may see this as wage-characterization. In the end, when you’re comparing travel nurse agency pay rates be sure to consult with a tax professional to ensure you are doing everything correctly in the eyes of the law.

Tip # 4 – Number of Travel Nursing Job Opportunities

Another aspect to consider when comparing travel nurse agencies is how many job opportunities they are offering and where those jobs are located. Why is this important? Well, this tells you whether or not each travel nurse agency has exposure to the locations you’re interested in and how established they are in the industry. The more job opportunities they have for you, the more likely they have the bandwidth, staff, relationships, and resources to win the travel nurse assignment from the hospital. 

Plus, if you plan to be a travel nurse for the long-term it’s important to compare travel nurse agencies and find an agency that has job opportunities in locations you want to travel to. Imagine you establish a relationship with a travel nurse agency only to find out that they only work in certain states or areas. This would really limit your ability to travel to the locations you’ve set your heart on.

Tip #5 – Customer Service Experience and Recruiter Relationship

Last, but not least, another thing to consider when comparing travel nurse agencies is the type of customer service and recruiter experience you have with each company. 

While this may not seem as important as the other aspects we’ve discussed above, working with a kind, considerate, and trusting recruiter can really make the difference in your travel nurse experience.

Working as a travel nurse can be stressful as is, so having a customer service team and recruiter that have your back can make finding and applying to travel nurse jobs an enjoyable and easy experience. Seriously. Don’t discount how important customer service and recruiters can be to your travel nurse career.

Well, there you have it. 5 tips for comparing travel nurse agencies. What else would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below!

Margaret Ozella is the Director of Marketing for TravelNurseSource.com , a travel nursing job board. With over 4 years of experience in travel nursing, Margaret has created hundreds of pieces of content for TravelNurseSource.com including travel nurse blogs , social media posts and campaigns, nursing scholarships, videos, infographics, and so much more. Whether you’re new to travel nursing or a veteran check out TravelNurseSource.com to find your next travel nurse assignment! Have a question or idea for TravelNurseSource.com? Reach out to Margaret at Margaret@trackfive.com to get the conversation started today!