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Reflecting on 2008 vs 2020 - Being a travel nurse in a pandemic - Atlas All Access 118

It may feel like things keep shifting whenever you start to get your feet beneath you. We're right there with you. Take a breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Again. That's better.

And then remember: the travel healthcare industry has been through this before.

The 2008 housing crises and subsequent recession played havoc on a host of industries that were never the same afterward. In this episode of "Atlas All Access", we offer a little perspective in the midst of the 2020 pandemic by reflecting on the lessons we learned out of the 2008 recession.

There are many similarities between 2008 and 2020 for the travel healthcare industry. For some of our veterans -- and you longtime nurses -- it may even feel a little eerie.

Sometimes it's difficult to see the forest for the trees when you are in the middle of the forest working overtime in full PPE and the lumberjacks refuse to wear flannel because of the zombie bears -- that metaphor may have gotten away from us, but you know what we mean.

We will get through this.

You got this.

BONUS WEEKEND GAME: Take a shot every time someone says the phrases "the new normal" or "in these unprecedented times".

Rich Smith: New normal. I swear if one more person says the phrase new normal, I'm going to throw chop them like the dude in Taken. Remember that movie where he would... There were so many throat chops in that movie. I'm so tired of hearing that. And maybe, you know what? Maybe it's just tired in general of everything that has come along with all of this. And I get it, you got to play along. You got to do what you have to do. Right. But it has not been easy. And I know it's not been easy on all of you too. So, on this episode, I want to look back to what it was like in 2008, 2009, when we went through the financial crisis and what it was like in our industry if you weren't part of that. Or if you were a part of that you might remember. What did that look like and what are some similarities between now and then. Atlas All Access starts now.

Rich Smith: Okay. So yeah, that was my little rant for the day. Right? New normal. I'm so tired of hearing that. But it's one of those things that, it's just how it is and we just have to go with it. And I think for the most part, everyone here had that go with the flow kind of attitude. And I can tell you why. A lot of us, at least in the leadership here at Atlas went through the financial crisis of 2008. And we're in the industry, like on the phones every day, posting jobs, placing nurses, placing healthcare professionals. We did a different allied health and that type of thing too where we were before. But a lot of us went through that.

Rich Smith: And so there are some similarities between then and now. And I think it's important to maybe talk through those, because it gives you that light at the end of the tunnel kind of feeling. And I have been like that now for a while. I've seen that there is a light at the end of this tunnel because there are so many similarities between the two. The first one is, and this isn't maybe so much of a similarity in the beginning of what we've seen right now, but now more is a reality, where hospitals just didn't have the jobs. Earlier on in this, there were a ton of jobs. Hospitals were staffing up, we thought, okay, this is going to be great. This is really good for us. And then all of those jobs kind of disappeared. Rich Smith: Same way back in 2008. I think there was one point where, for the company I worked for back then, we had like 40 jobs. And to be honest with you, like 30 of them were mine and like 25 of them were in Kansas and Missouri. And that was my stronghold. I'm from Kansas. I grew up in Kansas, born in Nebraska, grew up in Kansas. So I understood that area. Kansas city and St. Louis were very, very strong for me. But typically, no offense, Kansas city and St. Louis, typically weren't destinations but there were jobs there. And they were hiring. And so when push came to shove and you really needed a job, it was, you want to go to St. Louis?

Rich Smith: St. Louis is fine this time of year. There's a lot to do there. You want to go to Kansas city? They got great barbecue. The Plaza's fun. You know, things like that. That was before power and light and those types of things. So it was one of those things where you didn't take the job because there were beautiful mountains or there was skiing or, not that you're all doing that. Right? I get that. Because here's the second whammy on that. It didn't pay that great. The pay rates there were not awesome. It was the Midwest, and it was the Midwest during a time when it wasn't great in the industry. So the pay rates weren't that great. But it was a job. And to be honest, a lot of people that we sent there, a lot of travelers nurses that I placed there fell in love with it.

Rich Smith: They really, really enjoyed their time in St. Louis or Kansas City or Hays, Kansas, or Liberal, Kansas, or Wichita, Kansas, or Jeff City, Missouri. There were people that fell in love with those hospitals and those people. And then ended up going back a year later, or two years later, called their manager that they had at the time two years later and said, Hey, what do you still have available? Do you have anything open? That legitimately happened, and those people went back there even though the pay wasn't great and it wasn't super glamorous. But they made the best with what they had. And that's where we are at right now. And the feeling that we've kind of carried through all of this. There are some great jobs available right now in some not so, I don't want to say not so great places, because they're all great in their own ways, but it may not be a place that you've ever considered going before.

Rich Smith: And I think therein lies the beauty and the magic of what travel healthcare professionals do every single day. Outside of taking care of patients and the things you do for families. Right? I mean, we've talked about that at length. But the magic of finding someplace new that you never thought of before, that you never thought you would go to. Is this a pitch for me from Atlas to say, take some of these jobs that aren't Seattle, Washington or whatever. Absolutely not. But it's a pitch to expand your horizons a little bit. Consider that maybe it's not someplace you would normally go or consider going, but maybe you could, and maybe you should. And you may find that it's something different than you've ever imagined.

Rich Smith: You may find that it's not that great and you maybe don't want to go there anymore. Right. I mean, let's be honest. But I've seen it play out more times than I can count the other way. Where it is great, and you do meet great people and you have great patients, and you meet great families, and you make connections and bonds that will last through your travel nursing career and maybe your nursing career, you never know. You will affect the lives of people that you probably would never have met otherwise. And like I said, therein lies the beauty and the magic of what you guys do. So coming out of that, one of the other things that I realized too is, companies like us who have those relationships ahead of time. This is a time for us to really, really form and cultivate those relationships.

Rich Smith: They're vendor partners. It's not just a contract that we signed. And that means something to us. And that's something that's real. And we've talked about that too, when we've talked to Health Trust and RightSourcing and Visiant and our contracts are direct contracts with hospitals too. Those are vendor partners. It's not just assigned, it's not just a name on a piece of paper, right? It means something to us. And these are the times that we're using to really build and cultivate those relationships. So the few placements that we're having with them right now becomes many, many more and opportunities for you coming out of this. So we're doing, even though it seems like those jobs aren't just there. We're working harder than I think we've ever worked before on the client side to make sure that we maintain those relationships, that they understand how important they are to us.

Rich Smith: And then in turn, we are to them. Not only now when it's tough, but when the time comes too. So those are two of the biggest things I think that, I guess, the similarities between 2008 and now. I will tell you this, I came out with a completely different stronger perspective than I ever had before after all of that. And the way we built Atlas was based on what we learned back in 2008. We don't have a ton of managers, right? We have leadership at the top. There's a couple of managers here. And then everyone else underneath here. What we saw is, everyone here was doing the work right here, right? So that's where we kept all the power. So your recruiter during all of this here at Atlas can still make those decisions for you.

Rich Smith: It isn't just a, this is the pay and this is... There's negotiation to all of it that gives you the freedom, if you're going to go to Kansas City, to Overland Park. Again, I have nothing against those places. I grew up there. They are great places. Again, I mean, they're not mountain towns, right? You're not skiing there. But it gives you the flexibility to say, you know what? If I'm to go there, I need another $100 dollars a week. That's fine. That's not a problem. And your recruiter on the ground making those decisions every single day has the power to make those decisions. That's what's important. That's, I don't know, maybe a little more Atlas heavy, than on some of these before. But I've been thinking, as I've had time, obviously, the reason why we started doing this in the first place was to give you all access. Right?

Rich Smith: I mean, that's the name. And so that's what I'm trying to do with this one. So, new normal. Right? New normal. Anyway, I would like to hear from you, if there's anything you'd like us to specifically talk about, I'd love to do it. I'd love to sit right here and talk about those things with you or listen, I've been really enjoying the Alice Lives that I've been recording lately. They've been heavy. It's been tough. But if you've watched them recently, there's good information there. Like our travelers are still out there making a huge difference in the world. Huge difference in the world, and doesn't come without a cost. So, right. And so, there's a lot of healing to do after all of this is done, physically and mentally. So, reach out, let me know what you want us to talk about. I will be happy to sit here and talk to you about it and give you that all access perspective. That kind of was the root of why we started all this in the first place. So, take care and we will see you next week.