Travel therapy agencies: Your employer & the middle man

Travel therapy agencies are our employers and the main middle man between us and travel jobs. Staffing agencies are here to help hospitals find good, quality, skilled travel SLPs, PTs, and OTs. Facilities put a lot of trust in the recruiting agency.

What is the role of your staffing agency?

They must prove they did their due diligence to find a qualified travel therapist to bring on to the floor. That’s why we have to do so much paperwork, skills checklists, and credentials. To show the agency we are qualified for the job. It’s up to you to be honest when filling out all of this paperwork. And it’s up to them to run the background checks, call your references, and double-check your credentials and licensure. They could be held liable if they bring someone unqualified on the floor AND they could lose that contract forever with a whole hospital system.

They are also the ones that we get employee benefits from like health insurance, 401k, short term disability, and liability insurance. They create our pay packages based on the bill rate they were given by the facility. Each agency offers unique benefits and they also have access to different hospitals and job locations. So working with a few is a great idea.

Who they are not

The ones who control the bill rate. They have to work with the $$ that the hospitals are offering to pay us and themselves. They are not magic. And as much as we may want to work in San Diego, they can’t create jobs or a market where there is not one. They are not out to get us and if you feel like the staffing agency you are talking with is not a company you trust, just move on to a new one. There are over 400 to pick from and they should truly be a team and honest with you.

What they need

Being a middle man and trying to coordinate expectations and align needs is hard work. They need great communication and honesty from both sides. They need the hospital to give them clear communication about what roles they are hiring for and they need the hospitals or the MSPs to tell them when jobs close or when their traveler is getting selected to be interviewed (which doesn’t always happen). They need travelers to communicate all needs upfront (like time off or where they are open to travel to), to complete their paperwork fully so they are able to submit them to jobs. And if the traveler gets hired they need them to complete the onboarding paperwork on time so they can start for the hospital on the day they all agreed to.

Who they interact with the most

Everyone! They coordinate it all and have to do it well since they are legally liable for many things.

How to impress them

Communication, professionalism, open-mindedness. Get your paperwork in so they take you seriously. Tell your recruiter everything you need and want so they can really help you. Be amazing if you get a job (you are representing you and them as you go to work). Don’t steal a recruiter’s jobs and give it to another recruiter. Don’t ghost them. Don’t sign a contract if you are unsure, make sure your yeses mean yes and you don’t carelessly cancel agreements you make.

What motivates them

They LOVE helping you! When you win, they win. Almost all staffing agencies’ favorite part of their role is getting you in a job that lights you up and fits your needs. They are motivated to help you, especially the travelers they bond with and have some sort of relationship with. Send them pictures from your travelers, say thank you for their hard work, and create a nice professional relationship with them- it goes a long way!

What frustrates them

Just like us, a lack of communication is frustrating. If you never return their calls or emails that can be frustrating. They don’t like feeling like a bother, and if we just tell them we are not looking for assignments or update them on our plans it helps everyone. They get frustrated if we “ghost” them during paperwork time which can cause us to not start on time (it makes them look bad to their client, the hospital). When we call out sick a lot or cancel a contract thoughtlessly.

And of course, if we treat them poorly. Like they are our opponents instead of like they are on a team with us. Things like making demands about pay packages that don’t exist. Only wanting to work in destination locations where there are no jobs. Or telling them “but someone on Facebook said…”. That would be like one of our patients telling us “but WebMD said…”. We should not get our truth from Facebook. That’s just a good life rule.

How to pick a travel therapy agency

The truth is, most agencies are pretty similar. They may differ based on how they handle some decisions, like tax rules, reimbursements, benefits, and what their recruiters are allowed to disclose to travelers (e.g. profit margins). But the biggest difference is going to be in what jobs they have for us and our relationship with the recruiter. And what jobs they have has a lot to do with how many facilities they have direct relationships with. In order to have the most opportunity, I suggest working with 2-3 agencies.

The other players

The travel therapy agency isn’t the only one playing in this game. Check out the rest of these people (and the not-people too) and how they’re a part of your travel therapy journey.

  • The facility – The one who pays for everything else
  • VMSs and MSPs – The robots you need to make happy
  • The account manager – The hospital’s point of contact
  • The recruiter – The most important player for the traveler experience
  • The travel therapist: You! (The talent 😊)

Cheers to the travel therapy game being a win-win for everyone!

Laura Latimer

Laura Latimer

Travel OT and Founder of Nomadicare

Compare your pay to other travelers and see if you’re getting paid fair

Know when jobs are posted and how much they pay in your preferred locations and settings

Discover which states and settings have the most jobs and highest pay for your specialty

Understand how tax homes work and how to qualify for tax free money

Compare therapy licensure timelines, costs, renewal details, and more

Understand your health insurance as a travel therapist and see which one is best for you

Learn about travel therapy, avoid common mistakes, and see if travel right for you