Travel nursing contracts: What kind of relationship should you be looking for?

Travel nurse recruiters are hustling hard to try to land us jobs. And did you know that there are different types of contracts they can submit? Knowing which type can help predict what our odds are of getting an interview. But let’s get something clear first… When it comes to landing contracts, the facility and your company’s relationship status matter.

Myth: It doesn’t matter what company you work with because different companies have all the same jobs anyway.

Not true. Different companies definitely have different contracts.

We’ve known this for a while. But now that Nomadicare does Instant Matching I get to see it with my own eyes (and you can too)! The jobs are not the same. But there are times when they do overlap. Meaning that multiple companies can have access to some of the same jobs. For these jobs, it’s usually because recruiters are seeing the contract on the same VMS -a computer system that houses tons of jobs from different facilities and hospital systems across the country. You can think of VMSs as giant job boards for recruiters to see jobs and submit us through. This is the first type of contract we’re going to talk about.

Type #1: The open relationship

VMS contracts: Your recruiter submits you to a job through a VMS. Many of these contracts are open to other companies too. These contracts are a bit more competitive because they typically have more companies submitting candidates. Your company probably doesn’t have any special relationship with the facility for these contracts, so communication can be a little rocky.

Pro tip: If you land an interview, make sure to have all your questions ready and ask all of them during the interview! It may be the only chance you have to speak with someone from the facility until you show up for work on day one.

How they work: Agencies can sign up to work with a specific VMS for a facility or hospital system to see their jobs. If two companies work with the same VMS, they will have access to some of the same jobs (but not all). For the jobs that are the same, it doesn’t really matter which company submits you. Just keep in mind, the companies may pay differently even though the bill rate is likely the same. (This is just because companies have different overhead costs and profit margins they have to meet, etc.) There are many VMSs and most agencies work with multiple ones in order to have more jobs. So maybe one agency works with two VMSs while another works with five.

VMSs also permit varying levels of access to different companies. Facilities need to know they are working with agencies that can fill their needs and fill them well. So, their VMS gives a higher level of access to the companies that perform best. If a company has a good track record of submitting travelers -and the ones they submit are qualified, good candidates, who interview and work well- the VMS will likely give them access to a lot of jobs because they can trust them. Newer companies, or companies that are not doing as well at submitting, may not get access to as many jobs.

Type #2: The real relationship

Direct contracts: Your recruiter submits you to a facility’s hiring manager. Your company has an actual relationship with the facility or hospital. This means you may be more likely to get an interview. And since your company can talk to the facility directly, without going through a VMS or MSP, communication is usually better.

How they work: Direct contracts are usually created by agencies from their sales teams, marketing teams, or account managers. They may cold call hospitals, SNFs, and home health agencies to try to make a contract directly between them and the facility’s hiring manager. Typically, the agencies that have direct contracts with facilities are the first to hear about their job openings. That’s a good thing, y’all.

Type #3: “So are we like…exclusive?”

Exclusive contracts: Your company is in charge of filling all the job needs for a specific facility or hospital system. This means your company gets to hear about and try to fill their jobs first before other companies can see them.

How they work: A facility or hospital system contracts a staffing agency to manage all of the hiring for them. The agency gets first dibs on all the jobs. If they are unable to fill a job with their own travelers, after about 48 to 72 hours they will release it to other agencies that have a relationship with them.

Example: Kaiser is a huge hospital system that has an exclusive contract with the staffing agency, AMN. When Kaiser has a travel nursing opening, AMN will do their best to try to fill it with their own pool of travelers. If they can’t fill it within 2 or 3 days, they will open it up to the rest of the world. They must fill this job one way or another or Kaiser cannot be in an exclusive relationship with them. If another company is able to fill the opening, that company must go through AMN to get it. So it’s good to know which agencies have exclusive relationships because you get to hear about those jobs first.

Type #4: The role-reversal

Reverse contracts: Your company is marketing YOU to hospitals and facilities to see if there are any travel nursing needs you could fill. Typically this also means a direct relationship with the facility’s hiring manager and little to no competition. These are sometimes also referred to as marketed contracts or reverse marketing.

How they work: A travel nurse is looking for a job in a specific state or city. The recruiter looks through his or her agency’s direct relationships and VMS job boards. No jobs. Now, there are two options. The recruiter can either say, “Sorry, come back later and we’ll keep an eye on the job boards” -the more passive option. Or, they can start reaching out to facilities near the traveler’s desired location to see if there are any travel nursing needs. Aka, reverse marketing.

For this technique, the account manager or sales team will make cold calls and market the traveler’s skillset to every facility in the area that could potentially need a travel nurse. Not every company does this. It can be a lot of work and many companies just don’t have the time to do it. Especially for big companies that have tons of contacts already established. Small or newer companies often do this when they’re first starting out and trying to build relationships.

So, when travelers come to Nomadicare with very specific locations in mind, we will match them to both a big company (that has more jobs) and a smaller company that will reverse market for them. To tell you the truth, I was skeptical at first. But it really can work. And when it does, then… YAY! Time to celebrate because you just landed your dream location!

Type #5: “Let’s keep this just between us”

Backdoor contracts: Your company currently has a travel nurse working at a hospital that will have a job opening up soon. Your recruiter submits you early before this job is open to the public. This happens because your company already has a traveler there, meaning you will usually have access to a little more information. Plus, being in the know before anyone else means way less competition.

Be in the know. Work with more than one company to hear about more opportunities.

How they work: A traveler’s contract is ending soon. The traveler either wasn’t asked to extend or chose not to. So the facility still has a need, and the traveler’s company is the only one that knows about it right now. These contracts are great opportunities for travel SLPs, PTs, and OTs to get submitted to. They know that traveler’s contract is ending soon and the facility still has a need. These are really exciting contracts to hear about because they are not on any VMS job boards yet.

Why your travel nurse contract matters

Working with companies that will give you access to all of these types of contracts is just the best game. You will have a better chance of being the first to hear about jobs which will increase your likelihood of landing an interview tenfold. Larger companies may have more exclusive contracts and VMS access. While smaller companies may have more direct contracts or be willing to do reverse contracts for you. Have a strong mix of both and I promise you will have so many more opportunities.

If you’re a travel nurse who really loves your recruiter or company, you may be hesitant to talk to other recruiters. But if you have a location or pay goal, you may need to go with a different company to get to that location or get paid more competitively. This does NOT mean you have to leave the recruiters you like. It just means if you don’t have three you’re working with, you should!

Cheers to building strong relationships❤️

Laura Latimer

Laura Latimer

Founder of Nomadicare

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