SI Review: August 2012

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The Other Side

Roadside Assistance

Travel nurses look for recruiters that can support them through any crisis

By Gary Cox

I will never forget my first time filling out an online recruitment survey. After answering several questions about experience and qualifications, I hit the submit button and walked away from the computer, telling my wife to expect some phone calls from recruiters. Ring went the phone; I barely finished my sentence!

The following few weeks up until I finally made a decision on an assignment and recruiter to work with exposed me to several different approaches. There seemed to be a different flavored recruiter for every possible travel nursing candidate, which made me consider the question, “What am I really looking for in a recruiter and company?”

One recruiter who sticks to mind was the woman who sounded like she was working from home and excitedly reviewed different assignments as though she had just received a new Spencer’s mail order catalog. It was fun listening to her explore my possibilities, but not reassuring to think that she would be my connection to the travel nursing company. I didn’t feel she had the experience or understanding required to cater to my needs.

Simply put, when I am more than 500 miles from home what I need is confidence that a recruiter has my back.

Dig deep. Recruiters have often referred to their years of experience, but that experience needs to be reflected in our conversation. I can tell if you are quoting from a check list to find out information about me, and that is OK. But the truly experienced recruiters will delve a little deeper and find out other little things that may be missing from that list. A recruiter’s experience matters to me when it comes to staying up on current hiring trends, as my ear is full of rumors and the latest travel gossip. I need facts. For example, having another nurse available to talk to regarding past assignments in a particular hospital is appreciated.

One time I asked about a particular hospital that seemed to go through travelers frequently. The recruiter’s response was honest when he said, “Gary, it’s the kind of place where you just keep your head down, do your work and try not to be noticed, or they will get rid of you, even before your assignment is finished because they know so many travelers love the location.” Not my kind of work environment, but good to know and I appreciated the recruiter’s candor. I still keep in contact with him and hope to work with him some day.

Don’t sell. A few recruiters made me feel like I was in the middle of a sales pitch for a used car. It almost worked once, as I felt schmoozed down the slippery path from job interview to signing a contract, but I skipped out at the last moment. Perhaps it would have worked out, but I followed my instinct. I just didn’t like the feel, and besides, I have always been uncomfortable in used car lots. If the recruiter had bothered to ask how I felt during the process, I may have felt more comfortable and followed through with the arrangement. In any case, let’s boil it down to four words: Don’t sell to me.

Be prepared. Part of travel is the unpredictability of it all, highway detours, unexpected delays, problems with paperwork, etc.; every traveler has stories. One striking example was seeing a traveler stranded on the day before the assignment was to start because of a paperwork glitch at the California nursing license department. Sure, she should have checked on the papers herself, but she acted on the recruiter’s advice alone. Now, that recruiter would have a lot of work to restore faith with that nurse. That is why I need to know there is someone available to help out, and that the information given to me is accurate. Please make sure of that, as there is already plenty of unexpected stuff to go wrong that is out of your control.

Stay in touch. When I relocated to Hawaii, it was for an extended vacation, but since have been employed full time. I still live like a traveler and plan to return to travel in the next few years, but oddly enough have not heard from my former recruiter since. In the meantime, a handful of others do stay in touch and I have even offered referrals to them. Certainly that alone is worth a short phone call and quick email note from time to time. So my last bit of advice is simple: don’t write me off.

Gary Cox was a travel nurse for more than 10 years, primarily in the Midwest and Pacific coast states, and enjoys writing about his experiences with travel. He is currently in Hawaii working Intensive Care Nursing. He can be reached at gcox1958@yahoo.com

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