Healthcare Staffing Companies

Nurse Recruitment Strategies: What Motivates a Travel Nurse?


December 23, 2019

How do you attract nurses?

As a recruiter looking to determine what travel nurse recruitment strategies you are going to use, start first by asking yourself: what type of travel nurse am I trying to attract? You have to think deeper than location and specialty to effectively interact with a travel nurse. Although no two travel nurses are exactly the same, understanding the different types of travelers is important to defining your travel nurse recruitment strategy. To get into the mind of a travel nurse and understand what they are really looking for, pairing a story to each type of traveler can help. Use these travel nurse personas to identify what type of nurse you are going to focus your recruitment efforts on, and what nurse recruitment strategies you will deploy.

The Uncertain Traveler Newbie

We’ll call this new to travel nursing persona Alex. Alex is a top-performing Critical Care RN. She’s worked in the same packed ICU for almost four years now. Having mastered every aspect of this unit, from Charge Nurse to Code Team, she knows she is more than competent as an ICU nurse. However, she cannot shake the nervousness she feels when thinking about leaving her comfortable ICU job and pursuing a career in travel nursing. Alex really wants to broaden her professional experience but is scared that after four years of building a strong reputation among peers, respect from the Intensivist, and finally learning where everything is in the supply room she’ll be throwing it all away.

Alex is asking herself questions like: how will I adapt to a new environment? Will the staff there appreciate my grim sense of humor? Will the equipment be the same? There are vast uncertainties for a nurse that works hard for knowledge and control of what’s going on. But she really wants to travel.

Alex is searching with a few different recruiters for a contract with nothing but these uncertainties holding her back. She wants to know all the details. Where will she live? What size is the ICU? Do they block schedule? What is the patient ratio? Will she care for neuro, cardiac, trauma (or all of the above)? What charting system is used? Will the color of the scrubs be different? Which shift will she work? The list goes on …

As a seasoned ICU nurse, Alex makes calculated, confident decisions once the situation is fully understood, because to do anything less would present risk. Alex and ICU nurses like her are quite risk-averse.

What are the qualities of a good recruiter for the nurse who is uncertain of travel?

  • When presenting options, pack on the details. The more she knows, the better.
  • Get insights on the hospital and department. Use other travelers you know as a resource. Nobody will know the ins and outs of a hospital more than another nurse who has worked there.
  • Set up a conversation between the nurse and the nurse manager, outside of the standard interview, to allow time for questions.
  • Don’t be pushy. Don’t rush decisions. The travel nurse will see you as salesy and quickly become cautious.

Be transparent. If anything feels off or sketchy they’ll be gone before you can explain.

  • Educate. Taking the time to educate a new traveler is huge. If you can truly establish trust with a travel nurse during their first assignment, you’ll be their guide through the complexities of travel healthcare. To a new traveler, this industry can be very overwhelming. Don’t lose sight of this just because you’ve been around the block.
  • Be patient. Any nurse that is this cautious and thorough is probably a kick-ass nurse who’s going to leave facilities wishing she’d stay forever, so it’s worth giving it some time.

At the end of the day Alex knows she wants to travel, but also knows her worth and needs to understand every last detail before she makes a decision. Building your nurse recruitment strategies around this understanding is key. She won’t be persuaded into a situation that she is uncertain of. A recruiter that identifies and respects this is the ticket to getting this stellar ICU nurse into the travel nursing world.

The Adventurer

We’ll call this one Dontel the Adventurer. Dontel knows what he wants, and you won’t convince him otherwise. Dontel travels with his fiancee and small dog “Vino”. They are on a mission to deeply explore a pre-defined list of cities and regions and are using his career as the vehicle to get them there. Dontel might as well have been a realtor because location, location, location, and timing is the determining factor in his contract decisions. He’s enticed by exotic beaches, beautiful hikes, and cities that don’t sleep.

Does money matter? Of course it does. However, once his expenses are covered with some play money in his pocket, Dontel is happy. The true adventure of travel is what drives him. If you focus your nurse recruitment strategies around anything other than the adventure of travel nursing in this situation, you’ll miss the mark.

So how to entice Dontel and create solid nurse recruitment strategies for the adventurer?

  • Stay current on his plans. Dontel is a planner and probably has his next six contract locations listed out. Knowing them keeps you ahead of your competition. Don’t let him have to ask you about his next contract.
  • Understand that money won’t change his mind. Dontel is traveling for the experience. An extra thousand or two is not worth feeling like he’s just counting down the days for the next 13 weeks.
  • Be honest about not being able to place him in a particular location. The absolute worst thing you can do here is leave Dontel hanging for something that won’t ever come. If he wants to go to Hawaii, and you don’t staff in Hawaii, be upfront about it. Leaving him with trust will entice him to return to you after he checks off a contract in the location that you are unable to make a placement. Habits of an effective recruiter apply here.
  • Understand that overtime won’t change his mind. Quite the opposite actually. Dontel is there to do his minimum 36, clock out, and explore.
  • When sending him an option, throw in some fun facts about the location: festivals, iconic hikes, famous restaurants, etc. Photos might help move the needle here.

“I don’t care what hot rate North Dakota is paying this flu season, I’m looking for San Diego or Las Vegas.”

The Money Maker

We’ll call this one money maker Marcy. Marcy is here for one thing … to make money. Put her in triage, code rooms, fast track, it doesn’t matter. She’s down with working nights … or days. Put her in the rural, six bed, ER in a critical access hospital. Or the 130 bed, level one trauma center in the city. Marcy wants to work and make money. Live lean, and stack the dough. Nobody has paid off student loans faster and she’s proud of it. Although Marcy is extremely versatile and open to most opportunities, there is a very important common denominator here … money talks.

So what travel nurse recruitment strategies are needed to win this go getter?

  • Present your best contracts. Focus on your direct facility contracts, or others that you’re able to pay top dollar on.
  • Entice her with 48hr/week contracts, or those with overtime options. 48 hour contracts are preferred. The more OT the better. This girl would work two contracts at once if the IRS would be cool with it.
  • Do not (and I repeat do not) give Marcy a low-ball offer. She knows her worth and won’t accept less than she deserves. Give Marcy a poor offer and she’s guaranteed to walk. She’ll leave your agency in a heartbeat if a competitor can offer a higher rate.
  • Understand the cost of living for the contracts that you are presenting. Without an understanding of what it costs to live somewhere, how can you be sure the rate is worthwhile?
  • Don’t be shy about random opportunities that are paying well. Marcy might have a few locations in mind, but if a high-paying contract in a random location comes up, be sure to send it her way.
  • Understand that Marcy doesn’t know what to do with herself when she’s not working, and honestly doesn’t like days off in the first place. The top paying contract is her compass and retiring at 46 is the destination. Don’t try to entice her with a flashy beach location.

Marcy wants to make top dollar. If top dollar means a random location or alternative hospital setting … as long as she’s qualified for it, present it! She’ll work big metro university health system. She’ll work a mom and pop clinic. Pediatrics trauma center? Freestanding ER in the retirement community? She ain’t scared.

“Hell, I’ll work at a veterinarian hospital if the price is right!”

Well, maybe not. But you get the idea …

Strong travel nurse recruitment strategies go beyond the placement.

Strategies to retain a nurse after a successful placement aren’t much different than what it took to attract and place the nurse in the first place. Think about the nurse. What do they like? What drives them? Customize your nurse recruitment strategies and approach with each candidate. Identify and focus on what is important to each nurse specifically.

Provide the value they are searching for, and retention won’t be an issue.

Get a leg up on the competition by using Kamana to provide better candidate experience and streamlined workflows. Kamana eliminates the mundane while you focus on what matters: building relationships.

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