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How to Compare Travel Nursing Agencies

  • Understand the definition of a travel nurse agency and the services provided
  • Identify what nurses can negotiate in a contract with travel nurse agencies and how to choose the best nurse recruiter
  • Review comparisons among travel nurse agencies and available resources
Tracey Long



You’ve heard travel nurses make bank from different travel nursing agencies. Now, you want to explore this option, but there’s some things you need to know before you pack your bags. You need to know the details of how to actually obtain a travel nurse job. Your new best friend is your travel nurse agency and recruiter.


Like any booming profession, travel nursing has accelerated the competition for more agencies who recruit travel nurses. There are many more to choose from. This blog will give you some suggestions for choosing the best agency for you.

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What Is a Travel Nurse Agency?


Like dating, there are several travel nursing agencies to choose from. You need to find which one is best for you. A travel nurse agency provides temporary nursing staffing solutions by matching highly skilled nurses to healthcare facilities that need temporary coverage in different cities and states. These agencies play a pivotal role in meeting fluctuating healthcare professional demands across the United States and internationally.


Travel nurse agencies act as a broker to facilitate short-term assignments spanning from several weeks to several months for nurses looking for temporary placement. They identify the needs of a facility and develop contracts in diverse healthcare environments like hospitals, clinics, or long-term care facilities. The average assignment lasts 13 weeks. However, these assignments can be extended if you’re enjoying the location and assignment.


What Services Do Travel Nursing Agencies Provide?

Above all, travel nursing agencies serve a key purpose by matching nurses with available positions based on skillsets, preferences, and desired locations. Furthermore, these agencies handle many facets of travel nursing logistics processes, such as contract negotiation, housing arrangements, and travel logistics management. Also, travel nurse agencies typically provide support and resources to ensure compliance with licensing requirements and industry standards.


By acting as intermediaries between healthcare facilities and nurses, these travel nursing agencies increase workforce flexibility, offer nurses opportunities for growth, and satisfy dynamic staffing demands within healthcare institutions across the country. The variety of services varies and that is where the competition among agencies begins. The essential service of a travel nurse agency is to recruit the nurse to fill a temporary position in a hospital facility.


Travel nursing agencies will coordinate the contract between the healthcare facility employer and the travel nurse. However, services vary. Because the competition is growing, travel nursing agencies are now offering other bonuses, including assistance with housing, transportation allowances, continuing education, and even bonus vacation trips. Some agencies reward travel nurses with exciting vacation trips if they complete a certain number of assignments with them.


Remember, the agency also makes a profit on your contract. If they offer you a nursing position for $50/hour, travel nurse agencies may be making $70/hour or so. That’s their business, and we appreciate their networking to find those contracts.

two women in an interview

What Is Negotiable in a Travel Contract?

Most importantly, the easy answer is EVERYTHING. Nurses, unfortunately, haven’t been trained to be negotiators. We tend to accept what we are given and follow orders. Welcome to the opportunity to develop a new skill.


If you’re a new travel nurse, you probably don’t have the experience, skill, or confidence to negotiate with power. Yet, you can learn. Travel agencies also want your business. It may be safe to just take your first assignment offered and learn from there. However, there are still many questions you need to ask your recruiter before you sign on the dotted line.


Here are some questions to have a more robust dialog with your recruiter.


  1. Scope of Work:
  • How long is the assignment and on which unit?
  • How often does the facility float a travel nurse to a different unit?
  • Does the facility offer training for different units?
  • What are the expectations for the job?
  • What is the time frame of the contract?


  1. Contract Hours and Pay:
  • What is the hourly rate?
  • How many shifts are expected?
  • What happens if they don’t schedule the travel nurse for the minimum days of work?
  • Do they pay overtime?
  • How often does the hospital cancel the contract before it’s completed?
  • What is the compensation if they do cancel during the 13-week assignment?
  • What happens if the hospital cancels the contract up to 1 week before the start date?
  • How does payment work? What is the payment schedule?


  1. Bonuses and Extras:
  • Are there any bonuses for signing?
  • Does the agency provide assistance finding housing? If so, how much of the stipend is taken away?
  • Are there other nurses who have worked this assignment that you can talk to?
  • Does the agency or hospital provide medical insurance?
  • Does the agency or hospital provide professional insurance as a nurse?


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How to Choose a Travel Nurse Recruiter?

Remember the dating analogy. Yes, it’s just like that. You have to find which personality AND company is a good fit for you. Some agencies work on commission and others don’t so the motivation of a recruiter varies.


Qualities you should look for in a good travel nurse recruiter are:


  1. Honesty / Integrity

Above all, you need a recruiter who is telling you the truth about a contract. Even if you really like the person, and find they didn’t represent the contract, facility, or location correctly, you could end up quite unhappy. Don’t allow them to make promises they can’t fulfill.


  1. Professionalism

Many recruiters will treat you like their new best friend but remember you’re making them money. Ultimately, it’s all business. It’s a bonus if you can trust the person and enjoy them though.


  1. Organizational Skills

The recruiter has a lot to manage with the contract and possibly housing, transportation, licensing, and so on. If they don’t have that organized, move onto another recruiter. Your time is money.


  1. Advocacy

The recruiter is to act as your advocate, just as nurses have been trained to work as a patient advocate. The recruiter’s job is to find you the best deal and present you with options and possible contracts.


  1. Knowledge of the industry

A recruiter or agency team who has helped many travel nurses with successful contracts will probably be best able to help you too. As about their experience in the industry and what they have learned. It’s even smart to ask them why you should choose them as your future recruiter. You are essentially interviewing them for the job!


What to Compare Among Travel Agencies?


Because there is so much variation among travel nurse agencies and recruiters, it’s a good idea to create a little spreadsheet for yourself as you interview and explore the different agencies. This way, you can compare on your own. This will allow you to compare benefits and factors like how you feel about the company and recruiter.


Consider creating the following table for yourself as you interview with different agencies and take notes so you can easily compare the factors that matter in your decision. You’ll need to decide which of these factors is most important to you and then create a ranking of agencies would be helpful.


Remember your ranking may be different than another travel nurse as your needs and preferences are different.  For example, a travel nurse who has her own RV and doesn’t need assistance with housing is less important than the hourly wage, compared to a travel nurse who wants housing included in the contract price.


You decide what’s important to you, but at least ask the questions of each agency so you can compare.


Factors to Compare Notes Agency 1 Agency 2 etc
Assignment Opportunities Assess the variety and quality of contracts offered by the facilities and types of units.
Bonuses: Trips, CE’s, Training Ask about bonuses for extra assignments worked, CE’s offered and training for specialties at the facilities needed and offered.
Career Development Ask about opportunities the agency offers for career support and development including continuing education, recertification for BLS CPR, etc.
Communication Compare the communication style and openness of the agency and recruiter. Are they transparent?
Compliance and Support Confirm the agency is compliant with state regulations for contracts, tax laws, and licensure. Ask about 24/7 support.
Contract Transparency Pay attention to cancellation policies, overtime rates, & hidden fees.
Credentialing Process Inquire about the timeframe for licensure and credentialing for timely contracts.
Customization Inquire about their ability to customize a contract based on your preferences. How well do they know the area of the assignment?
Experience of Team / Recruiter How long have they been in business? What is their success rate for happily placed travel nurses?
Housing Ask about housing assistance vs. part of the contract services. How do they identify safe housing?
Insurance Coverage Inquire about type and extent of professional and health insurance coverage.
Licensing & Certifications Verify the agency is licensed and check if they are Joint Commission Certified for healthcare staffing.
Pay and Benefits Compare hourly rate and any health insurance/medical benefits offered.
Reputation & Reviews Get feedback from other nurses who have worked with them. Check them out on Glassdoor, Indeed, Travel Nursing Central.
Transportation Arrangements Inquire about the agency’s ability to help coordinate transportation to/from the assignment and the cost.


Travel Nursing Agencies discussion among nurses


What Resources Are Available to Help Me Decide?

The great news is that because the travel nurse industry is growing fast, there are many travel nursing agencies competing for your business. A great way to learn about a lot of travel nurse agencies is to attend TravCon, a travel nursing conference where recruiters will be excited to meet you.

Some names of reputable travel nursing agencies include:


The Bottom Line

Overall, the success of a travel nurse contract begins by making a good contract, which is hugely dependent on the agency that helps you find and coordinate the job. Remember, you’ve got valuable skills and an agency wants to help you utilize them for the best good. Have fun! Moreover, thanks for choosing to be a nurse!