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New Travel Nurse Questions, Healthcare Traveler Questions - Atlas All Access 107

What are the most important things you should know as a new travel nurse? Considering travel nursing or travel healthcare for the first time?

We answer the most common questions from listeners and nurses like you.

Rich Smith: Our recruiters field a lot of questions every single day. On this episode we talk about new traveler questions, and contract questions, which seem to come up usually within the first couple of phone calls, anyway, especially from new travelers. If you are a new traveler, or you're considering this for the first time, this is the episode you're going to want to listen to or watch with Adam Colette. Atlas All Access starts now. All right, three part episode.

Adam Collette: Three parts.

Rich Smith: Three parts. First part, new traveler questions and contract questions.

Adam Collette: Okay.

Rich Smith: Part two, next week will be about pay, benefits, and then questions about vendors, MSP's, VMS's that type of thing. Then part three will be with Cassie Wolfert from compliance, all about compliance.

Adam Collette: Great.

Rich Smith: And I know we've talked about these before, but it's just a good refresher to get back into it again. Especially when we put this question out to our recruiter group and said, "what questions are you hearing over and over and over again?"

Rich Smith: Do you field on each one of these calls, I know you responded to that. You probably fielded a lot of these too. Here's what we're going to do. I've got a list of questions I'm going to go down. Give me just a quick on each one of them.

Adam Collette: Sure.

Rich Smith: All right, so how long does it take to become a travel nurse?

Adam Collette: How long does it take to become a travel nurse? The minimum qualifications that I think are out there is one year of experience in a specific specialty. Obviously have at least your associates degree from a accredited school. Depending on your specialty, obviously BLS is required for everything. ACLS for higher units, PALs, for those. I would say a year of experience, accredited college and the correct certifications would be probably the best start.

Rich Smith: Gotcha. Okay. And that's minimum, right?

Adam Collette: That's minimum.

Rich Smith: There's a whole bunch of alarm bells going off, I'm sure in certain Facebook groups, and you know who you are, "Oh my gosh, you need more than a year." You might.

Adam Collette: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I would recommend two and a half probably is probably the best that you've seen most situations, and drugs, and those kinds of things. But we're talking about minimums. There you go.

Rich Smith: There you go. Okay. Next question. How quickly, and I assume this is once I accepted a contract, how quickly can I start?

Adam Collette: Sure. I would say that it's about two weeks from time of acceptance to when you can start on there, between doing testing, doing the compliance requirements, those kinds of things. Two weeks is a pretty quick start on there.

Rich Smith: That's a quick start.

Adam Collette: It really is, it's a quick turnaround, especially for you to get everything done and then travel, depending on how far that might be on there. I would say typically it's about three weeks is typically what I feel comfortable, especially for a brand new traveler on their first assignment. Three weeks is probably good. The other thing is, does the hospital only do orientation every two weeks, once a month? It's going to depend on the facility of what works on there, but two to three weeks I would say is typically normal on there.

Rich Smith: Okay, what can I do? Not me, but what can I do, the traveler do, to help the process and get a good travel job faster?

Adam Collette: Sure. I would say to get your first travel job faster is to have a larger radius of what you're able to look at. If you have one single spot, I only want to go to Phoenix, I only want to work days, and I only want to have these... The more requirements, or the more things that you have as needed for that assignment, the harder it's going to be. The more you open up to, "Hey, I'm okay with five hours from my home versus one hour from my home," you're going to open up those opportunities.

Adam Collette: You know, I always tell people for your first one, be super open of what the possibilities might be. And then once you have that first travel assignment under your belt, then you can get more specific, and more detailed of what you're looking for. But at the end of the day, you the traveler are going to make those decisions. It's not my decision, it's not Atlases decision, your company's decision, you get to make those decisions.

Adam Collette: I think the frustrations that I see on Facebook groups or other travelers that I talk to is, "Hey, I want this, this and this and I can't get it." And you've just listed four of the hardest reasons to get a travel position on there.

Rich Smith: That's like a level two conversation I think that you have with your recruiter too. Once you get to that point, and maybe you aren't necessarily getting the feedback from jobs that you were presented to in the first place. Maybe you need to have that second level conversation. So I think that's important.

Rich Smith: Okay. Next question. If I have a problem, and this is a legit question because you're picking up and leaving. You're picking up and you're going wherever. If I have a problem on the job, who do I call? Who do I talk to?

Adam Collette: You know, my answer as a recruiter is you first need to go talk to your supervisor on the floor, and in a nice calm non-demeaning way, have a positive conversation with a manager first. They are there. They're the one that can directly affect the situation or help change, or maybe help you understand that. You can definitely call the... You should call your recruiter first or second in there.

Adam Collette: Or maybe if you don't feel comfortable, call your recruiter and come up with a plan of what you need to do or who you need to talk to on there. But you may work for Atlas Med Staff, but you are still a nurse for that employer or that hospital. They need to be aware of those things that are going wrong too. They might be able to help out a lot faster than I am, go jumping through the hoops to get some information for you.

Rich Smith: But working in tandem with, I think you're 100% right. You talk to the person that you're closest to, whether that's your supervisor, that house supervisor, your nurse manager, whoever that is. You talk to that person first. Then you loop your recruiter in. Then the recruiter here would loop in a client manager, if necessary. If it goes to those levels. Just understand that there is a system in place to support you while you're on a contract. You're not just on an island.

Adam Collette: 100%. 100%.

Rich Smith: I love this question so much. How do I know my recruiter or my agency isn't screwing me?

Adam Collette: Yeah. Honestly, this is probably the hardest thing, especially for a new traveler. Obviously once you've done a couple of assignments and built that trust, or built that relationship with that recruiter or that company, it becomes a lot easier. But the hard answer to this is there are so many things that go on behind the scenes with bill rates, and changing bill rates, and critical needs, and it was a critical need last week and now it's not a critical need this week. Or we submitted you at a rate, but it took two weeks to interview, and now that rate isn't valid. There's just so much that goes behind the scenes, and being able to have a recruiter that can explain to you those things that happen, it happens so much that-

Rich Smith: It happens within a blink of an email, right?

Adam Collette: It really does.

Rich Smith: The client manager gets an email. This isn't critical anymore. You don't get the increased rate, or whatever. And the job that you pitched 10 minutes ago now doesn't get that increased rate anymore when you submit in an hour or whatever that might be.

Adam Collette: Yep. And the thing that really stinks is you place somebody, and it takes that three weeks as we talked about for them to get there. They're on a regular rate, and then all of a sudden something happens at the hospital between there and now, they're really in desperate need. Now the rate's $10 higher to try to get more profiles in there to fill jobs. We can even go back and ask for "Can we have that same rate on there?"

Adam Collette: Nine times out of 10 the answer is going to be "No you signed the contract three weeks ago, and it is what it is." There's a lot of times, so you're going to be working with somebody that's making more money than you, and no your company didn't screw you over like that.

Rich Smith: Had no effect on that whatsoever.

Adam Collette: No intentions, And then the double edge sword to that is, yeah, there's recruiters out there taking really high deals for themselves and their companies. And people will ask me, "Hey, is this bad?" I don't have all of the information. I wasn't paying attention to it, of that job, of when the rate changed or how it happened, what rates you're on or anything like that. At that point in time, start asking questions and seeing if you can find out a bill rate so then we can really figure out what that means.

Rich Smith: Well, I think there's a trust. You touched on it. There's a trust factor involved. I think the best way to do that is to, you all work with a traveler somewhere, right? Talk to them about the experiences that they've had. Most of them have a recruiter that they trust. Most of them do, whether it's here or someplace else. There are a lot of good recruiters and a lot of good companies out there.

Rich Smith: There's a lot of companies that just started last year, or last week, or last month or whatever that for one reason or another have to do what they've got to do. And you may not get that same sort of trust level out of them. So follow your gut, follow the advice of your fellow nurses, your fellow travelers and people that you work next to 12 hours a day.

Adam Collette: Yeah. And, and I would also encourage people to not be quick to jump and say, "Hey, my company's screwing me over." Call your recruiter, text your recruiter. Have that honest conversation of, "Hey, I know other travelers are making more money here. Can you, can you explain to me where this deal was? Are you making a ton of money on this?"

Adam Collette: At the end of the day, the traveler's got to make some money. The company's got to make some money as well. There's a happy medium in there that should be followed.

Rich Smith: That's a legit conversation to have, too. That's an absolute legit conversation to have.

Adam Collette: And if your recruiter won't share that information with you, I don't know if that's somebody that I would trust. Granted they might not be able to give you all of the information, share the bill rate or whatever. I completely understand that. But if they're not willing to at least have that conversation with you, I would be questioning if that's a recruiter I would want to work with.

Rich Smith: True. Okay, do I have to find my own housing?

Adam Collette: You don't have to. This is a slippery slope with some companies on there. I think the bigger companies that you have, they have a huge housing department with people dedicated to do that. Some companies don't have that as well. In my personal opinion, I think housing is one of the hardest things as a recruiter to do, just in the sense of they don't know, or I don't know where you, the traveler feels comfortable staying on there.

Adam Collette: What I hate seeing is my company set up housing, and it's disgusting, or it's, this and it's that. And we're in Omaha, Nebraska. I don't know what parts of Houston are the good parts, the bad parts. It's close to the hospital. You wanted to be close to the hospital.

Rich Smith: Right.

Adam Collette: And then we're in a situation where we're out of some money for doing the down payments and those kinds of things, which is not a bad thing, it happens. It's totally fair. But in the same sense, I think it's important for you to feel comfortable as a traveler. And I think when you and I work together, at least in my opinion, you and I working together to find something that's going to work. It usually works out better than me just finding something, and expecting you to show up and like it and be okay with it.

Adam Collette: It's one of the hardest things I will tell new travelers. My best piece of advice is book a longterm extended stay for the first four or five days that you're there. Go to orientation, talk to people that are there. Where are you staying? Did your company do it? Did you do it? At night go grab a sandwich, and just drive around and look for places to rent. Look at the hospital board of, obviously college students are there, and so there's typically a board in every hospital where there's tags to pull off for rooms to rent or places to stay.

Rich Smith: Yep.

Adam Collette: Get there, feel comfortable, feel comfortable where you're at, and I think you're going to have a lot better than sight unseen signing up for something.

Rich Smith: I think that might be the best piece of advice that you've given so far. Take a couple of days, stay at an extended stay or whatever, a long term, and then figure out where you need to be.

Adam Collette: Correct.

Rich Smith: All right. Last question under new traveler questions, and this could actually be a current traveler question as well. This is one, I just had a conversation with a former Atlas traveler who isn't traveling with us any longer. I'm not even sure if he's traveling, quite honestly anymore. It looks like Atlas does more gifts and special things like Atlas Adventures trips than other agencies. Does everyone get that somehow, and does that stuff come out of my paycheck?

Adam Collette: Sure. The easiest way that I think I can explain it to you is if you go back to McDonald's, Burger King, whatever. They have a marketing budget that comes from their profits. Every time you buy a cheeseburger, a penny goes to their marketing team, or whatever that might be on their side. Atlas is doing nothing differently on there. We are obviously taking money from our profits, and redistribute them back to, obviously, the travelers on there. If you want to say that, "does it directly come out of my paycheck or not?" Yeah, I guess you can say that.

Rich Smith: Well, because it all comes to the bill rate.

Adam Collette: It all comes to the bill rate.

Rich Smith: We don't sell anything else.

Adam Collette: And so yeah, there is a profit line that we make off of every contract, and then that comes out of... Those Atlas Adventures, those random acts of kindness, birthdays, those kinds of things come out of our marketing budget just as any other company has a marketing budget.

Rich Smith: But it comes out of the Atlas side rather than out of the-

Adam Collette: Out of the traveler's side. Exactly. A hundred percent on there. So you can look at it any way, you can say we're doing it, we're not doing it, whatever. We're not going to fight you on that. Everybody's going to try to turn it a different way. But at the end of the day, I think everybody needs to feel appreciated, feel special. And if your company's, once again, how do you not build trust of doing some nice things, some things for travelers on a monthly or assignment basis?

Rich Smith: Just appreciation for what they do for leaving your house and going out, and doing this. Part of the fun, and sure traveling is about making money and whatever. But seeing the country, and having a good time and us living vicariously through that. I can't do that right now. You can't.

Adam Collette: Nope.

Rich Smith: But I can live vicariously through your adventures.

Adam Collette: Correct.

Rich Smith: And this helps. I would gladly pay this out of this side.

Adam Collette: 100%.

Rich Smith: All right, so contract questions. We'll run down these really quick because they all seem to have the same sort of thing. And keep in mind there are some that deal with taxes here. We're not tax advisors. I am not that whatsoever.

Adam Collette: I don't like doing my own taxes.

Rich Smith: Exactly. I give mine to an accountant, and he does it for me. So, okay, this is an interesting one. Can I view a contract before I sign anything?

Adam Collette: Yes.

Rich Smith: Yeah, it comes to you unsigned.

Adam Collette: So correct.

Rich Smith: Right.

Adam Collette: You can interview obviously, get your questions answered, but you can view a contract, and then we can go back. I think the only thing on there is you should know the location and the pay before you even submit to a job. Location and pay shouldn't be a question when you're looking in a contract.

Rich Smith: Exactly.

Adam Collette: But you know, if you pitched a ICU job and then it comes back and it's a neuro ICU job, and you're not comfortable with that, that's a different question.

Rich Smith: Absolutely.

Adam Collette: And you're going to know that

Rich Smith: And there are times during interviews that things change, but then there are also times that maybe all of the information wasn't included in the job description. And so unbeknownst to us, we submitted you to a job that maybe you either weren't qualified for, or didn't want in the first place.

Adam Collette: Yep.

Rich Smith: Totally happens.

Adam Collette: Absolutely. Before you sign or commit to a contract, I tell people we're not committed to anything until you sign that. But once we sign it, and we tell the hospital that in good faith you're going to show up there, you're not committed to anything at that point.

Rich Smith: Yep. Okay. Are all contracts three months, 13 weeks?

Adam Collette: Nope. I would say the most common, and people ask, why 13 weeks? I think that's probably another common question. 13 weeks is one week of orientation, and then typically three months, 12 weeks of an assignment on there. And how that ever came up. I have no idea.

Rich Smith: I heard the story once. I think Thomas Piper told me the story because he researched back into the origins of travel nursing, or contract nursing. He did a little bit of that. He researched at once. I don't remember what it was though, honestly.

Adam Collette: But you know the other common one would be eight weeks. I would say eight and 13 weeks are probably the most common, at least in us. And then you get into strike work, and short term contracts and three weeks this, three weeks that.

Rich Smith: Those are tough. You've got to know what you're doing on those.

Adam Collette: You have to have a full team. I have a lot of nurses, "Hey, can we do a strike work?" And you have to have a whole other team. It's almost a whole other business of people that can go out and do strike work. It's something we choose at Atlas not to do at this point in time.

Rich Smith: What is, here we go, IRS question. What is a permanent tax home?

Adam Collette: Your permanent tax home would be where you are going to file your taxes legally in the state, United States of America.

Rich Smith: Where you duplicate expenses.

Adam Collette: Where you duplicate expenses.

Rich Smith: I think that might be the most important thing, if you're questioning this at all, just Google duplicating expenses, as a contract worker. All contract workers do it. That's how you get per diem's.

Adam Collette: Plumbers, railroad workers.

Rich Smith: Dude's that climb the 5G towers, and whatever, they're all on the road. They're all duplicating expenses. They pay rent, own a house, whatever, someplace else.

Adam Collette: Correct.

Rich Smith: And it's not just putting your stuff in your parents' garage.

Adam Collette: Correct.

Rich Smith: Unless you're paying them rent because that's where you lived, and you didn't have your own apartment, and you're still paying them rent, and you can prove to the IRS that you're still paying them rent.

Adam Collette: Correct. There's got to be a money trail.

Rich Smith: Yep. There are industry things from a business standpoint that I should watch out for with a contract. Are there industry things from a business standpoint that I should watch out for in a contract with an agency, such as what are good things to see in a contract? What are bad things to see in a contract? What are things that I can ask for that I may not know about?

Adam Collette: Sure. I think you should watch for a minimum hourly wage. We have it set at a specific number at Atlas, an RN should not be making $10 an hour somewhere across the country.

Rich Smith: You want to talk about red flags with the IRS.

Adam Collette: Yeah, exactly. What Atlas chooses that number to be isn't true across the board. It's what we've been advised to.

Rich Smith: We've talked to our CPAs, and they say this is acceptable.

Adam Collette: Yep. Correct on there. So a very low, under 16, under $15 an hour for an RN would be a huge red flag for me.

Rich Smith: Yeah.

Adam Collette: Always know your guaranteed hours. I think guaranteed hours is probably a big thing on there.

Rich Smith: Understand the guaranteed hours doesn't always mean guaranteed pay.

Adam Collette: Correct. And understand, especially for new people, Hey, what does guaranteed hours mean? What are call off policies? If I do get called off, how does that affect my pay? If I get sick, how does that affect my pay?

Rich Smith: Which we talked about last week.

Adam Collette: There's so much information, and it maybe looks like your recruiter or your company is hiding that from you, but maybe you just didn't have that conversation. But if you're interviewing recruiters and companies, how does guaranteed hours work?

Rich Smith: Those are all legitimate conversations to have ahead of time.

Adam Collette: Yep.

Rich Smith: Absolutely. Okay, so little long winded, but I think that answered a ton of questions. Next week we'll talk about pay, benefits, and then I know all of you have heard about vendors and VMS and MSPs. We've talked about them before. We'll cover them again, what each one of them are, how they operate, and how we interact with them when it comes to your contract.

Adam Collette: Awesome.

Rich Smith: Adam Colette will be back with us. We'll probably be in the same clothes. Maybe. See you next week.