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Meridian asset purchase, 1 year later - Atlas All Access 127

What happens when you are a travel healthcare professional and your company disappears? Or goes through a merger? Acquisition? Or any number of business challenges.

Is your job safe? Will you even get paid this week? What happens next?

These are scary questions for a nurse about to start their shift, potentially working an entire weekend for free.

Thankfully, in this episode, we talk about when the stars align and everything works out.

Join us as we revisit the Atlas MedStaff asset purchase of Meridian Staffing, and find out what that process looks like from the inside: from a nurse's perspective living through every moment, and from a recruiter's side where they found new opportunities.

One thing is for sure, the life of a travel nurse is never boring!

Get to know Travel Nurse Recruiter Connor Velvin:



Previous Meridian episodes

Mergers, buyouts, and acquisitions are pretty common in the travel healthcare staffing industry, but that doesn't make them easier if you are a traveler or an employee of a company going through challenging times. When Meridian Medical Staffing was going through a tough time, Atlas MedStaff stepped up to ensure those travelers were paid and taken care of.


Rich Smith: Okay. It has been just over a year since Atlas made the asset purchase of Meridian Medical Staffing, and what a year it's been. I don't want to talk about how 2020 has been a dumpster fire and it's just been ... I'm so talked out of that. I want to talk about the positives of this, because ever since we got the phone call that day to come and help Mark and the guys at Meridian out, it has been a very positive experience for us at Atlas and for the employees that we retained, Connor, and for the travelers that came over and joined Atlas.

Rich Smith: On this episode, I talk to Tracie Harris, a nurse that came over and has been with us on and off since the acquisition, and Connor Velvin, recruiter, who came on with us shortly after the acquisition. Atlas All Access starts now.

Rich Smith: Okay. Tracie, Connor, thank you so much for joining me today. Sadly, I would love to have this in the office and, Connor, have you in the office. I don't think I've seen you since the Christmas party.

Connor Velvin: I miss the office. I miss it.

Rich Smith: I miss the office so much. Tracie, where are you at right now? You're in Arizona, right?

Tracie Harris: No, I'm in California, in the high desert.

Rich Smith: It is hot?

Tracie Harris: Very.

Rich Smith: Well, it's summer. That's what you get. Okay. I want to talk about that day. I went back and I recorded just a little bit. When I got the phone call, when Steve called me, it was an interesting day. I missed two calls that day, which I can only assume were coming in about this. I got a call from Steve as we were getting ready to go eat, or we were going to go hiking.

Rich Smith: We were eating lunch, we're getting ready to go hiking, and he said, "Hey, how quick could you be in Denver?" I said, "I guess I could," because I was on vacation with the family and stuff, and he proceeded to tell me what happened. I said, "Well, that's ..." I told my wife and she's like, "Yep, you need to go." An hour and a half later I was in Denver, and the meeting happened the next day.

Rich Smith: I wanted to talk first to Tracie about what that was like. I mean, that's every traveler's fear, right, is Friday rolls around and you don't get paid. Then Saturday, I called you. I believe I was the one that called you and said, "Surprise, you're with us now." Talk about that a little bit. What was going through your mind? Because that could be a scary time.

Tracie Harris: Yeah. I walked out Friday about 4:00. It is 4th of July weekend. Almost everybody has bailed early that is anywhere in top management in the hospital that I was at, and rightly so. It's 4th of July weekend. I actually have call that weekend, and get emails stating the situation. Of course, there's lots of inappropriate words that went through my head, because everybody's gone and I have nobody to contact.

Tracie Harris: My first thought was, "Okay, I'm not getting paid. Two, I'm on call. I may be working for free all weekend, because I'm not about to call them and say I'm not going to work." Then as much as I worked that weekend, I was like, "Am I going to get paid for this weekend?" Because I'm like ... it was a nice chunk of change that was coming my way.

Tracie Harris: The next thing I know is I see it on Facebook, and I'm seeing it everywhere. I quickly ... people were making friends with me and we were on the back side of Facebook, talking. I said, "These are my options. I won't know anything until at least Monday."

Tracie Harris: Then I got ahold of someone who let me know that Atlas had came, and the next thing I knew is I got a call from you. I remember saying, "Where are we going forward from here?" You said, "At this point, you say you're an Atlas employee or an Atlas traveler." I instantly went and changed my resume.

Rich Smith: You did. You did.

Tracie Harris: It said Atlas from that point on, and I remember introducing myself and then saying what was next. Then just thankful because of the situation, because the worst that's going to happen is Monday you go to work and you give two weeks notice, or less than that. It's not your fault because now you're working for nothing, or you scramble on your own to find a contract with somebody else. Or I know one girl, she worked home health, and home health just kept her and paid her directly. It worked out for her.

Tracie Harris: A lot of this is the worst-case scenario. I've worked for three weeks free, and then I'm out trying to find, scramble for a new contract or a new place to go. I was just like, "Okay, how much do I have in my budget for this?" Because at the time I was in New Mexico, and so on Monday, I think it was, you said I would be hearing from Kiana and getting a whole bunch of stuff.

Tracie Harris: I walked in Monday, told my people what was going on, and their faces dropped because they were like, "No, no, no, no, no. You have to stay." They were like, "Yes, yes, yes. You go in this room and you do whatever you need to do, and sign whatever you need to sign and do whatever you need to do to stay here," and so I did. That's what the whole process was at work, because they were very supportive. They wanted me to stay. They didn't want me to leave.

Tracie Harris: I called up, I guess, their contract person in the hospital, and she's like, "Oh, I love Atlas. Business as usual. You're good to go." I was like, "Whew." Then after that I was just like, "Okay, I gotta do what I gotta do to get paid. I gotta turn all this stuff in." Because it's like you're starting up with the new company in the middle of a contract, so yeah.

Connor Velvin: You have to redo the skills checklist and all that good stuff.

Tracie Harris: All the fun stuff.

Rich Smith: Well, and your story's not all that unfamiliar either. We heard that from a lot of the travelers too. We said, "Okay, if we're going to do this, we're going to do it our way," because Joint Commission and our certification with them is very important to us. We told them ahead of time what was happening. They said, "Okay, you put parameters around this and you'll be okay." We said, "Okay, two weeks out. We're going to give ourselves a two-week window to get everybody compliant. Regardless of what was sent to us or whatever, we're going to send everybody through our compliance process."

Rich Smith: What you describe happened a lot of places across the country with some of those travelers, with a lot of those travelers. The hospital said, "Take care of that. We want you here, we want you working, but we understand. Take care of that piece, and then we'll move forward." Connor, tell me about when you first heard what happened and we had that phone call, because you and I knew each other, but it was just from ...

Connor Velvin: It was more social media, "Hey, how's it going," kind of stuff.

Rich Smith: Yeah. The Las Vegas thing or whatever. Joining the Atlas family, what does that mean to you, and how have you grown here over the past year?

Connor Velvin: I grow every day. That's the ultimate goal, is to constantly push yourself to get better every day, especially in this industry where you're building connections and relationships, but it's been, if anything, just a peace of mind and such a stress reliever for me. I don't like to use the word easier, but my job got easier. Atlas is an absolute amazing company, amazing brand, and everything they stood for, even while I was working at Meridian, I knew that that was a part of what I wanted to be in. Ultimately, like Tracie said, that 4th of July weekend was utter ... it was not fun.

Tracie Harris: Chaos.

Rich Smith: It was chaotic in a lot of ways. Each one of us experienced that chaos in a different way.

Tracie Harris: Right.

Connor Velvin: Yeah. I mean, I don't want to say we saw it coming, but for a couple of weeks when nurses aren't getting paid on time on Fridays, I'm waking up every morning stressed that nurses aren't getting paid. If anything, I was just blessed and fortunate that you, Steve, Kurt and the entire Atlas team jumped on board, and they did what needed to be done to make it happen for not only me but also the travelers, which were way more important than myself.

Connor Velvin: That's all I was thinking about constantly, was these employees that we built a relationship with over X amount of months, years, and all of a sudden they're just ... I don't understand how you can just dump nurses like that without communicating in a better way. I was very, very frustrated with the situation, and very, very glad that Atlas came in and saved the day.

Rich Smith: It was interesting as we were having some of these conversations ... and Tracie, you might have said this about your recruiter too, I don't recall ... there was at one point one of the nurses that we talked to, that I talked to in particular who was working for Connor, who was one of Connor's nurses at the time. Before she said, "When am I going to get paid, who are you, why are you calling me," it's, "How is Connor? Is he going to be okay?"

Rich Smith: That was her first instinct. That was interesting, took me aback a little bit. Then when Connor called me later, it brought me back to that conversation. I thought, "You know what? If there's one dude that's Atlas, it's that guy right there." It made our decision very, very easy,

Connor Velvin: You're not just a number. You're a person and a friend, and ultimately my travelers become my best friends. It's hard to think about a year ago where we were at compared to now, where it's so much better. Just overall thankful. Definitely thankful.

Rich Smith: Tracie, talk about your experience over the past year.

Tracie Harris: Getting on, onboarding, I remember thinking, because you alluded to in the video that people had went over. I was like, "Ooh, who went over, who went over," because afterwards I was like, "How are they?" Too, I was like, "Everybody just came to Atlas from holiday weekend. They're getting this dumped on them." They're like, "Hey, guess what we got? Surprise, 4th of July." Then I'm thinking there, we're going to be working frantically. It's the good person in me. I was like, "What's your address?" Send the coffee, send the chocolate, keep them motivated.

Rich Smith: You did, too. I remember that.

Tracie Harris: Because I was like, "The happier they are, the quicker they get our stuff done and be glad that they're doing it," because they didn't ask for that. They did as they would, because it's Atlas. They're like, "Let's do it." I'm like, "They need caffeine, sugar and chocolate, every person's love."

Rich Smith: It was. It was a very welcome gift, that's for sure.

Connor Velvin: I was in the office when that chocolate showed up. I remember that.

Rich Smith: Thinking about us at a time when ... that's very selfless. That's a very selfless act from you, and I appreciated it very much.

Tracie Harris: For the year anniversary, if you would have been open, there would have been a gift coming. I was like, "I have nowhere to send this to, because they're all ... " you know. I was like, "Okay, I won't send it." I was very grateful, because it could have ended way worse. We could've just been left, bye, but we weren't. You guys with your motto, "Where you belong, do the right thing," and you did.

Tracie Harris: I know when I went to TravCon and I met you and I gave you a big hug. Somehow when I met Kurt, I started thanking him and I just broke down in tears. I was like, "Oh, my God, you do not know how grateful, to this day, I still am." Because that weekend of the 4th of July turned out to be very beneficial for me. That paycheck ended up getting me the deposit for this RV. After that, I was like, "Yeah," you know. Through a weird fluke, I ended up going to another place for six months, but we tried to get back earlier.

Connor Velvin: We did. We were playing the politic game a little bit there. We don't need to discuss that too much, but ultimately you made it back to where you belong.

Tracie Harris: I was like, "I'm coming back." I'm like, "Yeah, no, I'm coming back," you know? Got this, then COVID happened, and then now things are starting to gain speed again. It's the year anniversary. I was just like, "I still cannot be more grateful," because of just where everything could have been.

Connor Velvin: Agreed. The amount of less stress. Waking up every Friday wondering if people are going to get paid is no longer even a thought. It's so amazing.

Tracie Harris: Well, and then wondering are you getting paid, because I knew that a certain time, if I didn't get to start texting and calling, and then on that Friday, I'm like ... but I still had faith, because I'm just that person. Then when I got the email, I was like, "Okay, so that's not happening. Okay. What? Plan A, plan B, plan C," because I just happen to be a planner. All the people that I met on the back side were panicking, and I'm like, "Let's look at it this way. Let's do this, let's do this, let's do this."

Connor Velvin: If it was any other company outside of Atlas, who knows where I would be. It was Atlas, is the reason why I'm probably still here doing what I'm doing, loving it every day. I mean, it's such a breath of fresh air, is the best way to word it.

Rich Smith: That leads me to my last question, and I've been asking a lot of people this lately, because to a lot of people, the answer is it's a lot of different things and it's interesting, the answers that we get out of this. What does Atlas mean to you? Tracie, you want to start?

Tracie Harris: Let Connor go first. I need a moment.

Connor Velvin: That's a hard one to be put on the spot. Atlas means it's a home. It's a work home. It's a family. It's not just a company you work for where you hate your job. I mean, it's an opportunity to constantly get better. It's an opportunity to constantly grow and just love what you do, helping travelers make more money, have a better experience in life, traveling to different scenery challenges, you name it. At the end of the day, Atlas provides the opportunity that was missing, and I am so glad to be here.

Rich Smith: I'm glad you're here too. Tracie, what do you think?

Tracie Harris: The biggest word for me would be gratitude. Without your help in that situation, I probably wouldn't have come on board yet, but it was bound to happen, and we were thrust into it for a reason and it worked out. Just everybody there who was working diligently to help us, to get us on board, to get us paid and then to go forward, and then have the security of knowing.

Connor Velvin: Security is a great word.

Tracie Harris: [Crosstalk 00:16:12] or a paycheck. I don't have to start checking my bank account, seeing if it's pending, if it's pending. Is it coming? Is it coming? Knowing I'm working my butt off, representing myself through you guys, giving us all a good name, and in return, there's all the extra perks that you do. At TravCon ahead of time, you're just like, "Come one, come all." The same thing with the meetups. I absolutely love the meetups. Then I think this next thing would be that you genuinely meet somebody. When I went to TravCon, like Kurt and everybody, and you know it's genuine.

Connor Velvin: I remember that. Tracie, I'm going to piggyback off that, because I remember the first time I met Rich. Again, it was what I wanted to be a part of from the very beginning and what I envisioned, and I am so thankful.

Tracie Harris: I think travelers are out there looking for a place to call home as a company. Some of them are looking for a new home, that's why they travel, and some people have the travel bug and that's what they want to do. All of that is perfectly fine. When you get a recruiter that you think of without a second thought, like Christmas cards, birthdays, whatever, it's almost like a contest of who's given who what with the gifts.

Connor Velvin: You are tough to beat. Let me tell you, you are tough to beat.

Tracie Harris: Then you want to also thank the company, which if they ever go back in the office, you can.

Rich Smith: We'll get back to normal eventually. We have to, because this is driving me crazy. We have to get back to normal eventually. I have one funny story about Connor that I have to tell before we are done here. This is awesome. Connor, two TravCons ago, before he came on with us, tried to recruit my wife, who is not a nurse or a traveler. She works for a bank. She gets off the elevator and is wearing, I think it was, the "Where You Belong" shirt.

Connor Velvin: It was probably some Atlas gear or something, I'm sure. Yeah.

Rich Smith: It was, and very easy to identify and very easy to mistake. Like, "Hey, are you a travel nurse," or whatever? Yeah. Connor tried to recruit my wife. That was one of our first interactions.

Connor Velvin: I completely forgot about that.

Rich Smith: I just love to tell that story. It's one of the endearing qualities that Connor has, where he lives this life every single day because his travelers are so vitally important to him. Tracie, as you can attest to, as much as Connor has hobbies and a life, and his cats ...

Connor Velvin: Cat. If I had multiple cats, yeah, it's a problem.

Rich Smith: I mean, he lives and breathes this industry.

Connor Velvin: I've been doing it for six years now, almost, something crazy. Like I said, it's all I live and breathe. Over the past year, I've grown and more contracts, just everything. Just the opportunities here are way more than what I thought they would be.

Rich Smith: Well, I want to thank you both. The experience that I've had with the Meridian travelers and with you, Connor, over the past year has been nothing like I expected. It's been amazingly positive and fun. Just the database that came from there is vibrant. The travelers that we talked to were a lot like what you said, Tracie, just very happy to just be doing what they're doing and that we're part of their life now. I think a lot of positives came out of this, out of the chaos that was that 4th of July weekend last year.

Connor Velvin: That is behind us.

Tracie Harris: [Crosstalk 00:20:28]

Connor Velvin: Yep. Absolutely.

Rich Smith: I'm looking forward to the next one. I don't think you guys know. We talk about it a lot. That one, as much as it was chaos, it was fun. Us, me, Steve, Steve and Kurt, sitting in that extended-stay hotel room out there by the airport there in Denver and just making those calls. I remember calling Tracie. You were my very first call, and I was nervous as hell because I hadn't done anything like this at all. "What am I going to say?"

Connor Velvin: Well, you were breaking most of the news to the travelers, weren't you? Because I don't think we were allowed to.

Rich Smith: Right. Yeah. It was, "Hey, surprise. You're with Atlas now. Just say you're with Atlas. Oh, never mind. You've got to redo your entire compliance packet. Thanks, come again." Everyone, everyone, took it in stride just like you did. I can't thank you both enough for making that process, as crazy as it was, very smooth, and in the end it was kind of fun.

Connor Velvin: It was fun.

Tracie Harris: It ended up being fun, yeah, because you guys played the hint and the joking, like who's coming, who's coming, and then you find out who's coming and you're like, "Yeah." There's just no question, you know.

Connor Velvin: It was a couple hours, maybe a day of being really scared. Then once you talk to Rich and Kurt, like I said, once you know where you're going and where you belong, all fear, everything just disappears. It's crazy.

Tracie Harris: Yeah, and you get the call from Rich going, "Hey, check your bank account." You're like, "What," and you're like, "Oh," and you're like, "Yes," and then you just know. You just know, because I've been with five companies and it's the whole ... with my job it's the being paid fair. Just because you're surgery track, you've got the call, you've got all that stuff.

Tracie Harris: Once you learn that at TravCon, it matters, because you love to do what you do. It's Phil the wonder dog. Knowing that it's all working out for the greater good. Sincerely, everybody who worked on that, I can never, ever, ever have enough gratitude and gratefulness for. I swore I wouldn't cry on this call.

Connor Velvin: I am just proud. When people ask who you work for, you're almost proud to announce now, and you want to boast it.

Tracie Harris: Yeah, because I'll ask people. When they get here, I ask them who they work for. That's my first. "Oh, where's your tax home and who do you work for?" Then later on they're like, "Who do you work for? How are you getting paid? Who are your ... " you know. I'm like, "Yeah, I'll tell you, because I'm very happy to tell you. You have no idea how great it is over here."

Connor Velvin: [Inaudible 00:23:34]. Dolan, cut.

Rich Smith: Dolan, cut this out. I noticed about three-quarters of the way through.

Connor Velvin: No, I think you're good.

Rich Smith: Tracie, I totally stepped on something there that was important, but I was looking at it like, "Good Lord. Is there something in my teeth now?"

Connor Velvin: Can you imagine if there was?

Tracie Harris: A big ol piece of spinach right there.

Rich Smith: Is this breakfast? Is there breakfast left in there? Okay. Let's wrap it up. All right, Tracie, Connor, thank you so much. It has been as crazy as it was. It was a lot of fun. I'm so glad that you're both still with us, and I'm kind of looking forward to the next one that we do. Thanks again, and we'll see you next week.