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jlambirt jlambirt (Member)

Taking travel job, hoping for perm offer. Too risky?

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I'm moving from the west coast to either Hartford or New Haven, CT. I work in a psych hospital and management begs every travel nurse to come onboard as staff after their contract. I'm considering taking a travel job at Yale, kicking ass, and hoping to be offered a permanent position, extended contract, or a job at another local facility.

My current hospital is my only experience in psych, but there seems to be a ton of turnover. Apparently, it's really difficult to staff acute psych units. Even more so when there's no security, nurses do restraints, excessive paper charting, and 9 patients per nurse.

Assuming I'm a great psych nurse (I became the overnight supervisor in 6 months), are staff job offers pretty common?

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Sure, but you do better applying for perm, especially if staff is as scarce as you say. Sign on bonus, relocation is much more likely to be better if you don't start as a traveler. In part because the agency employing the traveler "owns" them - the hospital has to pay them a rather large fee to release the traveler. Better that money goes to you, right?

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If I finish my contract and sign on as perm, does the hospital still pay a fee to the agency? Something like a noncompete clause?

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Yes. Some contracts may not have a non-compete (may not be reflected either way in the agency to traveler contract but appears in the hospital to agency contract where you cannot see it) but they are rare. Contractual costs start at maybe $20,000 and go up to as much as a full year. They are routinely negotiated down but you get the idea. There are some cases of temp to perm contracts, but also rare. No matter, money out of your pocket potentially if your plan was to go perm in the first place.

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Ned is amazing, and you should definitely trust whatever he says.

I'm not a traveler, but it seems like it would depend a great deal on what the specific agency is offering you vs. what the hospital would be offering you. For instance, I've worked for a hospital that paid up to $10,000 in moving fees (after tax) and bought me a one-way plane ticket; in contrast, I've worked for one that gave me a $250 relocation check (before taxes)--each was for a cross-country move to and from the same location. In the former case, you'd definitely get a better deal by using the hospital's relocation resources as a permanent employee. In the latter, you may be better off going through a travel agency and using your stipend (although you obviously couldn't use it to move your entire apartment/house).

In addition, I've worked in places where travelers negotiated a higher base salary when they became permanent employees because management didn't have to pay to onboard and orient them. I worked in one hospital that offered current travelers a $10,000 bonus to stay on permanently (in part since they didn't require relocation benefits). I doubt these examples are the norm, but it is possible to attempt to leverage your travel experience in order to get a bonus or a salary increase. It's possible that you'd get better beneifts (i.e. bonuses, relocation) by starting as a permanent staff, like Ned said, but that's not necessarily always the case.

IMO (again, not having had travel experience myself), it does seem like traveling would allow you to test out the unit before you commit to staying there long-term. However, there are a lot of challenges that you'd face as a traveler that you wouldn't as permanent staff (i.e. a shortened orientation, poor or no benefits, being the first to float, potentially getting the crappy assignments that the permanent nurses don't want).

Is there a reason you think you can't get hired as a permanent staff member right off the bat? If a unit is short-staffed enough to require travelers, they're probably desperate enough that they're hiring a bunch of people, too (unless they have a discrete point at which they expect staffing to improve, i.e. half of the staff going on maternity leave at the exact same time). I've known plenty of travelers who have stayed on as permanent staff; I've only ever known one person who wanted to stay on but wasn't able to get hired, and it was because she stirred up a lot of drama and had disciplinary issues during her assignment. If you take a travel position and do well, you could probably be hired on full-time; however, if your end-goal is to be permanent, it would be so much less of a hassle to just apply for a permanent position and see what happens. Why not give it a shot?

Finally, are you even sure that Yale's psych units are using travelers, and do you know which agency they use? A few years ago, my entire healthcare system (20+ major hospitals in 4 states) put a full stop on travelers for over a year. I've also worked on units that are profoundly overstaffed to the point where everybody is being put on call and burning through PTO; those units may go for months or years without needing travelers. Ned can probably speak to this, but if you do plan to travel, you may not find what you're looking for if you're only interested in one specific specialty in one specific hospital, or even in one specific region. I guess you could reach out to Yale (or other AN members) to try to figure out what agencies they work with, or if psych in and around New Haven is hiring travelers at all.

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Great post!

If the goal is to shop around, travel is a good way to go. Depending on the value a hospital thinks of a traveler, they may not be willing at all to pay the agency. In that case, the traveler may have to wait for six months or a year (whatever the non-compete time is) to hire on as staff. No problem! Just do some more random assignments. Might even find a better unit.

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Great post!

If the goal is to shop around, travel is a good way to go. Depending on the value a hospital thinks of a traveler, they may not be willing at all to pay the agency. In that case, the traveler may have to wait for six months or a year (whatever the non-compete time is) to hire on as staff. No problem! Just do some more random assignments. Might even find a better unit.

That is a great point. I had a friend who was dead set on moving to a big city on the west coast, which was home to about 10 regional NICUs. She took travel assignments all around the area to find out the reputation, benefits, drawbacks, and structure of the local units. She made connections with the managers at each one, and each unit offered to hire her on full-time (I think part of the reason she stayed on my unit was the $10,000 signing bonus). Even though she turned down the offers from other managers, she could probably get a job at any of those units if she wanted to (assuming that they're hiring).

I do wonder why you want to move to New Haven. Do you have a spouse/partner that's moving there or a school program you have to move for? Do you want to move there, or do you have to?

I only ask because I was in a similar boat when I moved from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast a couple of years later (a.k.a. There and Back Again: A Nurse's Tale). I went as permanent staff instead of traveling because I had less than two years of experience, and I was certain that I wanted to live in said west-coast city long-term. Once I got there, I realized that although I loved the city itself, the urban lifestyle wasn't for me, and I missed being close to my family and friends. In retrospect, I really wish I had waited until I had two years under my belt and gone as a traveler. It would have been far easier, and less expensive, to test the waters by traveling than to move my entire life back and forth across ~6,000 miles in three years. Hindsight is 20/20.

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Thanks for the advice. I have 2 years in psych and have been a supervisor for 1.5 of those years. I have 2 misdemeanors on my record from 2016. A close friend in management combined with a desperate HR department got me my current job. Like both of you said, letting a hospital see my performance for 13 weeks could have a big impact on keeping me full time.

I'm concerned my record and need to relocate will disqualify me for a lot of positions. I'm moving to Connecticut for my wife to be closer to her family, and because the BON doesn't care about misdemeanors.

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That is an interesting dilemma. While Ned's posts (and the entire travel forum) are great resources, you may get some helpful insights from the Nursing with a Criminal History forum as well.

I would think that if you're worried your past would prevent you from getting hired permanently, it would also prevent you from getting hired as a traveler? (Ned, not sure if you have any insight on this?) I'd imagine that HR has to screen travelers just like they screen permanent employees (i.e. background checks, drug tests, etc.), although the background check may be more expedited. If you're hoping that a unit would be desperate enough to take you on as a traveler, it seems like they'd be desperate enough to take you on as full-time staff, if that makes sense, especially with strong references.

That said, Yale may be tough, both as a permanent employee and as a traveler. I work at a large, world-renowned academic hospital and came with experience in to an ICU that was desperately understaffed, but the HR application process was unlike anything I've ever experienced before (6 written references from colleagues, including at least 2 current managers, which meant informing your manager of your intent to leave before being offered the job). It doesn't sound like you'd have any issue with references, but their institutional policies regarding criminal history may be more strict than other lower-profile hospitals.

I don't think it would hurt to send out applications. If that doesn't work, you could still consider the travel route. However, if it were me, I'd proceed with caution. The worst case scenario would be if you moved your whole family out to the east coast and then couldn't secure a permanent position, or enough consistent travel positions, to make ends meet. Even if you left your current job on great terms and could return to your prior job as a back-up option, moving cross-country for a travel position and then moving cross-country back is a very expensive route (again, speaking from experience).

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A key phrase here is "moving to Connecticut". A large portion of traveler compensation depends on the tax advantages of working away from home. If you "move", you are not working away from home. You certainly don't want to claim otherwise - that is fraud. Under this condition, compensation would almost certainly be better as staff.

Can't say much about misdemeanors, but you do have to report them to BONs, even the BoNs that don't do background checks. Background checks are routinely done for travelers and depending, the agency may not even submit you to the hospital. In any case, hospital HR gets a copy for their records in case of audit by CMS.

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Just remember if they are offering a permanent job to almost anyone traveling/working as registry there, there must be some kind of catch. Get to know a few people who have worked worked there for a while as staff, and see what problems you may encounter if you decide to stay there as permanent staff. On the other hand I hear the east coast is pretty open about training and hiring people into all kinds of specialties compared to Cali. 

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