News: The Current Status of the Travel Nurse Industry

May 1, 2012

The Travel Nurse industry continues to change and improve for those Travel Nurses who are looking for assignments as compared to 2009-2011. Our orders from Hospitals looking for Travelers are up 100% from 12 months ago and we are starting to see a huge issue in finding Nurses who are willing to take new assignments. Many Nurses are still concerned with leaving their existing permanent or per diem jobs due to the economy. Hospitals are starting to see delays in filling their Travel jobs and hospitals are going to have to start raising their rates in order to fill critical positions.

For Travel Nurse Agencies, the quality of the Travel Nurses being placed is extremely challenging. We are seeing many Travelers not qualified or with problematic pasts resulting in either Travel RN’s who are unable to be placed or who once placed, are falling off assignment due to skills/behavior.

Many Hospitals are renewing Travel Nurses they have on billing because they need them and permanent Hospital staff are getting angry at the extra workload.

Travel Nurse Agencies are also having a lot of problems knowing about the culture and operations of a hospital client due to the fact that 80% of all Travel Nurse position requirements are coming through Vendor Management Services companies (VMS). Vendor Management Service Companies came into vogue 5 years ago when hospitals were looking for a better way to manage the Travel Nurse Vendors.  An agency used to deal with the Hospital directly but now, the VMS stops the agencies from dealing with the Hospital. The problem with VMS companies is that it is rare that VMS company conveys the culture/operations/problems that a hospital might have and Hospital notoriously due a poor job in the Travel Nurse interview explaining problems/issues/nuances with the unit. This all results in poor matches and more Travel Nurses/hospitals unhappy with their assignments. had such a good success in its placements prior to VMS’s due to the fact that our staff really did a great job making sure we communicated to our Travel Nurses what to expect before they accept an assignment. We work hard at really understanding the hospital. We believe this is the key to ensuring a successful assignment and to reducing any fall offs. With the VMS in the picture, our ability to know and speak with a Hospital has been greatly hurt and we are seeing more falls offs then we saw before VMS.

The fact of the mater is that VMS are, and will be, the way of life in the Travel Nurse industry. Here are some suggestions for a:

Travel Nurse:

1- Ask your agency if they are dealing with a VMS on the position you are interested in ( This doesn’t mean you don’t work with the agency)

2- Ask the recruiter what they know about the Hospital and how well the recruiter knows the unit

3- If you do a telephone interview with the Hospital write down all the questions you have before the interview so that you can make sure you know what you are getting involved with.

4- You are evaluating the hospital more then they are evaluating you. Ask about unit problems, about the staff personality, about the type of patients that are typical to the unit.

5- Ask about the area the Hospital is in and what you should be concerned with.


VMS suggestions:

1- Review each job posted from the Hospital and make sure their is critical information such as # of beds in the unit, type of patients, charting methods, expectations for a Traveler, hospital culture. Be realistic and honest. Everyone hates it when a nurse falls off assignment and having realistic job details are the best way to reduce fall offs.

2- Make sure the Hospital knows how to interview Travelers and asks the right questions. Most of the interviews we have seen involves the hospital interviewing the nurse for 15 minutes asking the nurse to tell them about her experience…and then the Travel Nurse is hired because they are needed so badly. The hospital never talks about the negatives, only the positives of the unit.


1- Write up a format of questions that one has to answer at the hospital if they are posting a Travel nurse need with questions that really help everyone understand expectations. The more details about the unit, patients, staff, the hospital the better.

2- Communicate often with your VMS helping them to understand your hospital inside and out. Also, if your VMS account manager isn’t good…ask for a new one to be assigned. We have seen excellent VMS Account Managers and they make all the difference in the world.

3- Teach your managers how to interview Travel Nurses. It is completely different then a traditional interviewand the interview is usually on the phone. A good interview should be at least 45 minutes long.

4- Require that your agency submits extensive write ups of what they know about the Nurse and why the Travel Nurse wants to come to the Hospital. We call this a compelling reason. The best recruiters will have the longest/most details write ups and will know the most about the Traveler.

5- No matter how much you need someone, don’t rush to bring them on board. A bad match is a terrible disruption to your operation/staff/patients.

 In the end there really are 3 things everyone needs to do:

1- Ask better questions

2- Reveal more details in job posting, resumes and interviews

3- Nurses, Agencies, Hospitals and VMS need to work closer.