Ned - You are exactly right in what you say. I had never recruited prior to working for On Assignment, so it was a whole new ballgame for me. Yes, unfortunately there are negotiations that do occur. However, all of our jobs are put in to our system at our required margin - Many agencies are contracted with the same hospital - however, the majority of those are contracted through vendor managers who charge universal bill rates - on the flip side, there are still hospitals out there who have direct agencies and they do not work with other travel companies. The other aspect not being considered by your point above is the commission structure of the recruiter. Some agencies pay their recruiters exactly like car salesmen - the greater the gross margin on the particular nurse, the greater the commission. We pay recruiters based on full time RNs working. This means there is no reason to withold money from the RN. Of course I've had to negotiate and of course I feel that the compensation should be higher based on the experience and specialty of the RN. Unfortunately, we don't bill the hospital differently if we send them a RN of 25 years or an RN of 2 years. That's why I say if you set your standards appropriately in the beginning, there should be no need for negotiating.
There's no doubt that you are well in-tune with the travel industry - I'd say probably more so than I am. However, I thought it would be nice to lend a different perspective to some of the questions on here. I definitely respect all of your knowledge!