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If you’re a healthcare administrator, you don’t need to be told there’s a national nursing shortage because you’re living with it daily. Depending on your facility’s location, you may have more than one vacancy in a number of nursing specialties that need to be filled. Your situation isn’t unique – the shortage affects everyone, and until the United States produces more nurses and nurse educators, facilities in rapidly growing metro or expansive rural areas will starve for healthcare talent.

More CNO’s and healthcare admin alike are considering alternative staffing methods to address the void. International staffing is becoming increasingly popular, but travel nurses are by far the most utilized. According to industry analysts, the demand for travel nurses has reached a 20-year high.

The problem isn’t how to find a travel nurse, not with roughly 340 travel nurse providers in the United States alone. The problem is which one to use. With that many choices, it’s difficult to weed the bad from the good. But there are separators, and the following is a short list of things you should look for in any travel nurse provider:

1) Experienced Nurse Availability – Obvious, right? But life is so much easier on you as a healthcare administrator when you can find one travel nurse provider to fulfill your needs instead of picking and choosing from a mixed bag. Agencies with a robust pipeline of quality nurses can be difficult to find, especially in the midst of this shortage, but it’s worth looking. Finding an agency well stocked with nurses ensures any vacancies – both the ones you have and the unplanned – can be filled in a timely fashion.

Even if you’re hiring just one nurse in one specialty, ask your provider what their pipeline looks like and see if they have the stock you can rely on both now and in the future.

2) Sustainable Bill Rates for Success – Q: When is a great bill rate not a good deal? A: When it is so low that the travel nursing company can’t pay enough to attract the needed nursing talent. A top travel nursing company should be able to advise you on bill rates that will be sufficient for everyone to win. Their track record will let them know what they need to bill in order to pay the nurses what they need to come to work at your facility. Travel nursing companies that undercut this rate will oftentimes win the deal with the hospital, but struggle to attract any nurses to take the assignments. Sustainable bill rates attract top talent making your life easier knowing you’ve found quality talent to address your vacancy.

3) Cost Effectiveness – There’s no sugar-coating it – travel nursing is a premium priced service. But did you know that the strategic use of supplemental nurses is actually cost-effective? Especially when used to avoid use of overtime labor and to cover interim labor shortages. Additionally many agencies offer incentives when their travel nurses work overtime hours. Thinking 1.5 normal hourly rates for overtime? Think again with programs like Tailored’s “One Rate for 48,” that let’s you utilize the services of their travel nurses for an extra 12-hour shift with no increase in the hourly bill rate.

Travel nursing is cost effective when used properly, and like Tailored, there are several providers that offer unique hourly bill rate programs to sweeten the deal. With a little review you’ll be sure to find a provider that goes above and beyond.

4) Knowledgeable Regarding Facility and Staffing Needs – Is it too much to ask for travel nurse providers to do an ounce of due diligence before blowing up your inbox? A good way to measure a provider is by how much they want to know about your facility, duties of the position, community, and patient mix. Dealing with a provider that takes time to actually get to know your facility and understand the challenges you’re facing is a pretty sound indicator they’ll offer better candidate matches for your needs.

5) Flexible Scheduling Options – It’s good to work with a provider that can customize a recruitment campaign, especially for mission critical needs. Ask your provider about their CRM or marketing automation system. Those might seem irrelevant, but good and efficient systems highlight the ability to recruit quality screened specialty nurses when you need them.

6) Courteous and Responsive Account Managers – Easy – if you’re not dealing with genuinely courteous and attentive account managers, you have about 339 other choices. Account managers should be more than willing to cater your needs, which includes prompt response and taking the time to learn what you really want out of this.

7) Satisfaction Guarantee – It’s not universal, so look for it, but any good travel nurse provider is going to offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. For example, Tailored Healthcare Staffing offers its clients a business week to cancel their contract. Literally, if a THS client isn’t entirely satisfied with their travel nurse, they can walk away and be on the hook for nothing.

That’s how it should be. If your provider doesn’t offer that, ask them why.

8) Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval  – This is a surefire way to ensure you’re dealing with a quality organization. As healthcare admin, you already know this. So why would you work with any travel nurse provider that doesn’t have it? With so many options, you need more ways to seriously vet these companies. The omission of a Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval helps you narrow down your selection.

9) Brand Recognition – Facebook likes and Twitter followers may mean little to you. After all, how do those translate into good resources? In a way, they do. Before signing with any provider, look them up online. What are they doing? Are they producing more content beyond a sales pitch? Companies that focus on content development within their industry have a much better understanding than recruiters offering band-aid solutions because they’re staying abreast with the climate and changing landscape of nursing.

There are all kinds of studies and informational articles out there regarding the state of nursing. Work with an expert on the topic. Follower count and likes is a trusted way to identify these experts, as large amounts of people aren’t often going to follow or subscribe to a business that isn’t producing remarkable content.

10)Professional Liability – Any good travel nurse provider is going to take care of professional liability insurance so that your facility doesn’t have to. It’s not a given in this industry, so make sure that’s included, because if it’s not, it definitely is somewhere else. Be sure to ask for the Certificate of Liability Insurance (COI) and inspect the Per Claim and Aggregate coverage to make sure it is in line with your standards.

Fix Your Nursing Shortage 

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