RNnetwork Blog

Everything you need to know about travel nursing.

Career tips Nurse life

How your recruiter and recruitment agency can make all the difference as a nurse traveler [Video interview]

In the fourth of a series of travel nurse video interviews, travel nurse Bob Goldnetz sits down for an interview with former ICU travel nurse Isaiah Battel to learn about why he decided to stop traveling and start recruiting.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Bob:

Hey everybody, my name is Bob Goldnetz. I’m an ICU nurse traveler with RNnetwork and I’m joined by Isaiah Battel. Quick little background: Isaiah and I met in Palmer, Alaska, where we did a nightshift contract together. As night shifters do, we hit it off, and we’d hang out outside in the great backcountry of Alaska a little bit. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Isaiah:

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to see you again after all these years.

Bob:

I know, man. It somehow goes by so fast, and it seems like a lot of things for both of us has changed for the better quite a bit.

Isaiah:

Yeah. It doesn’t slow down either, but it’s good. It’s different, but it’s good.

Bob:

That’s a good way to put it. It’s like life is in fast forward. Where are you joining us from?

Isaiah:

We have a home in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve been a nurse for about 11 years and traveled for six or seven of them. I was traveling in the lower 48 and I came up three years ago for the same contract you were on, I think you were on the first one. I stayed — I never left — and I ended up working the next three years as a traveler up here in Alaska. I think a lot of nurses might not realize how much different the nursing experience is across the United States. You have nurses maybe in the Deep South with not great working conditions making $20 an hour, sometimes $22 an hour, and you’ve got nurses working PRN in the Bay Area of California making $100 plus an hour. So there’s a huge discrepancy. I was stacked in the Midwest where the medicine, I’ve come to learn since then, is pretty good. Lots of University hospitals. East Coast = good medicine; south or southwest = not so good medicine. Alaska is hit or miss; it really varies. It’s shocking how different the standards are for medicine and the standards of care, the protocols, the lack thereof, it’s shockingly different sometimes. There are some states you probably don’t want to get sick in.

Bob:

Yeah, that’s a great summary and a great way to put it. I definitely agree. I think that’s one of the pros of being a traveler. Sometimes I feel I get a little stagnant because you’re not really there to learn; you’re there to be adaptable; and you’re there to fill holes. But it is amazing how adaptable you become being in all these different scenarios, environments, and of course different teams, learning different charting systems and technologies. I will say some of the people coming in through Alaska — where they didn’t have running water; they’ve been in the backcountry; and they come in sick — was very different than someone coming off the street in a metro area.

Isaiah:

Yeah. Interesting because it’s almost to some extent the rural versus urban argument versus a state. Because I’ve worked with travelers that had similar experiences in West Virginia or Kentucky, where you have these people coming from the backcountry that hadn’t seen a doctor in 15 years, and they’re pretty sick. They hadn’t really taken great care of their health. But it’s fascinating how many different things you can see from the hospital side or even the patient population — the same but different based on where you happen to be found in this country of ours. It’s been a great experience. I think you would say the same, your travel nursing was a really super good experience. Pros and cons to everything, but compared to being staff, it definitely had its perks.

Bob:

Yeah. To your point, my favorite thing is coming in: I clock in; I do my 12 to the best of my ability; and then I clock out. I’m done and there’s no drama, and I’m just looking forward to the days off or the next assignment or the end of the assignment. I guess as you can relate, that’s a little different now. Also, to your point, it’s crazy what you just said — I’m down in Florida now, and I remember pre-Covid, the rate here compared to Alaska or California or almost anywhere else is amazing — especially when I first became a traveler. I went to a different hospital, and all of a sudden, I was making twice as much for the exact same job.

Isaiah:

That was my experience. I left a staff job in Michigan, and I was suddenly taking home in one week what it would take two weeks to take home. Michigan is kind of middle of the road for staff, so it was a lot. And then you learn so much. That first job you realize there’s this traveler working next to me, and she’s making $200 more a week than me. That’s interesting. You learn these different facets of things and you’re like, wow, not all agencies are created equal, not all recruiters are created equal, and you really kind of have to do your research and your homework and due diligence, and eventually you’ll find a good one. Typically, in my case, I rewarded them with my loyalty because I knew the market as a whole — and for traveling healthcare professionals — it’s pretty cutthroat, big business, and not everybody is looking out for your best interest. At the end of the day, a lot of them are looking out for number one; it’s human nature.

Bob:

Yeah, that’s like when people who are looking into getting into traveling, it’s the first thing I tell them. It’s nice to believe the best in people, but at the same time, the recruiters only get paid if you work. At the end of the day, they may not care if you’re happy or not, if it works out or not, or if it has the greatest working conditions, so finding a good recruiter with a good agency that seems to have your back definitely can make or break an assignment. And honestly, you could have people who have a bad assignment and leave the travel industry, so it could almost make or break your career. I think you and I have talked before; I never really had any of those horror stories. I’ve been very fortunate, especially with RNnetwork, getting to go to Ecuador on a mission trip with them. I guess we could skip ahead quickly to the fact that you are a recruiter now, so I guess you’re seeing the other side of it. If you’re allowed to say, what has been the biggest surprise? Like looking at travelers from the opposite side of the scope.

Isaiah:

I think you and I as travelers, we always wanted to get into that page that broke everything down: the pay package. It was pretty cool the first day I got into that. I love numbers and I was like, this is cool, this is where the magic happens. And it’s been shocking to talk to a lot of nurses and hear their experience from other agencies; it’s very hit or miss. I think, like you said, based on the recruiter sometimes, maybe based on the agency other times. I think the hardest part from the recruiter standpoint is getting ghosted. You have a qualifying conversation with somebody, and they sound really gung ho, and they send you all their stuff. You build their profile and then it’s just crickets, and that’s really frustrating. And you try to reach out and you’re like, “Look, I’m not going to be offended if you took a different job with a different agency. That’s part of the game, but let me know.”

Bob:

I just want to know that you still exist, and you’re still around. Are you ok?

Isaiah:

I’m not a used car salesman. I’m just trying to figure out if I can help you get your next placement or not. If not, let me know when I should reach out again. When you get nothing, that’s frustrating. I’d much rather someone be like, “Look, I took a job with a different company. I’m available November 3rd.” I’d be like, “Cool, I’m going to reach out to you the start of October. Congrats on getting a job, and I hope it goes well.” That kind of thing.

Bob:

Just a little basic human connection and some humanity. I’ve been really fortunate with my recruiter now, Chuck, and my last couple of recruiters with RNnetwork. That just means so much when they’re like, “Hey, just checking in on you.” That’s really nice. I have nothing to complain about — everything is great — but that’s just really nice because I feel like you’re thinking about me.

Isaiah:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s clear you’ve had a good experience where you’re at. You’re a great travel nurse, and you’ve been there a long time, so that speaks volumes to your recruiter and your agency, really. You could go anywhere you want; you’ve got the skills.

Bob:

Oh, you’re going to make me — I’m not blushing so bad.

Isaiah:

The fact that you’re working in Florida, man, speaks volumes about your work ethic.

Bob:

Yeah, I won’t get on my soapbox about that. I guess take me through the culmination of where you are now. I’ll spoil it a bit, you got married to another traveler, and you’re a new dad, so congrats on both of those. I guess, what made you get into traveling, and then what changed for you to get into recruiting? And then how has that affected your long-term view of where you’re going?

Isaiah:

Great questions. Initially, I think I always wanted to travel when I went into nursing. I was kind of thinking CRNA ultimately because you’ll probably get to that point. It’s hard to imagine yourself at the bedside for 30 – 40 years. It doesn’t seem sustainable for most nurses, and I probably had that view from the very start, you could even say. I got into a PCU job first as staff, and then I migrated to the ICU because I knew ICU would likely travel better, and it did. I really traveled more for flexibility of schedule; that was kind of my big thing. Time to me has always been worth more than money. The money helped, but I would even say back then that if the money was comparable to staff work, I might even still travel because the fact that I get half a year off was pretty appealing. What’s cool was you could potentially match your staff salary in half a year and have half a year off and not feel like you were losing any money for not being staffed year round, so that was pretty cool. That worked out nice. I had a great run at traveling; I did some cool stuff, as I’m sure you can relate to, too. It was cool when you could get all your shifts on a night shift and then have a block of time off so you could check off all these various different National Parks in the west or go fishing off the coast of Massachusetts, or whatever it is you want to do.

Bob:

Go fishing at 2 a.m. in Alaska in the middle of summer.

Isaiah:

Yeah, you know, when in Rome, right?

Bob:

Looking back, what do you think was your number one experience? Whether it was a National Park or a trip on assignment?

Isaiah:

My favorite assignment was Sitka, Alaska. It was during Covid, so there was no cruise ships. I mean, it was just us and the locals. At that point, I was an Alaskan resident anyway, I was living on the mainland, you could say, but think of an island with 6,000 – 7,000 people and 18 miles of road system. Beautiful. There’s a peak behind the little village there that looks like the Matterhorn in Switzerland, just incredible. Pure magic. We’d go fishing a lot, and there were these big seals at the dock. You’d throw your salmon scraps to these big seals and these big sea lions — the sea lions were kind of mean. But just a cool place, tons of eagles. I didn’t rent a car there, so I bought a specialized bike and flew it over and biked a lot that summer. That was a really good experience from a traveling perspective. What I learned later, now that I’m married with a kid, it’s not where you go; it’s who you go with. Because you go for long enough, and you begin to realize, yeah, it’s cool and it’s great, but you kind of want somebody to show it to. You know what I mean? You get to that point eventually. It’s just part of who we are as human beings.

Bob:

How did you meet your spouse?

Isaiah:

Through coworkers, actually. And it sounds kind of funny, but the Alaska State Fair. She’s an OR nurse, a far better nurse than me, probably 20 times the nurse I’ll ever be. Takes her job seriously, does good work, a good OR nurse, open heart, the works. She can do it all. I met her up here. She was from Colorado originally and came up during her college years, worked at Denali National Park, did some rafting, touring, that kind of stuff, fell in love with the place. She graduated from Regis in the Denver area and came up and worked up here ever since, mostly staffing and some travel but a lot of staff. I never would have guessed it would have been that way, but man, I’m really thankful to be living the life I live today. What made me go into the recruiting side of things is we had a little baby girl. I get to watch the little one and work full time from home and get to help travel nurses and try to strive to be the kind of recruiter I always wanted in my corner when I traveled. It’s been cool, you know, seeing the other side of things. I like to educate, so I spend a lot of time on the phone. I don’t make a lot of calls, but if I get someone on the phone, I’m a talker. You probably remember that. It’s so nice when you’ve got a great travel nurse who knows the drill and is really good at their job. Those are the ones we really, really want. Because, you know, the same thing, in all fairness, we say not all recruiters are created equal, not all agencies are created equal, not all nurses. You know this.

Bob:

That’s so funny because I feel like there’s kind of that stigma. When I was getting started, I started a little after you, six or seven years ago, and there was still a pretty decent stigma that, oh, the travelers are lazy; they just come in and dah, dah, dah. I don’t know, I’ve met a lot of lazy staff nurses as well, so I think it just kind of depends, and you kind of have to build your own rep. You could be a really good CV nurse, and then you get floated to neuro, and then maybe you’ll learn something. It’s kind of a big open world out there.

Isaiah:

It’s interesting traveling too, Bob, you could say, because there’s certain hospitals where maybe they put emphasis on something like, this is a huge deal, you have to do this, and you’ll go somewhere else, and it’s not a big deal at all. You’re like, huh, so they must have had a lawsuit that resulted from something along those lines probably at some point for them to be pushing that so hard. It’s like, that’s fine, whatever.

Bob:

And they lost funding.

Isaiah:

Exactly. Or there’s more than one way to do some stuff, is kind of what you’re saying too. Protocols vary a little bit, and sometimes, not one way is right and one way is wrong, but maybe one way is better than the other way, but there are still different ways to do the same thing. That’s kind of interesting too because you’re like, OK, as we can see as nurses, right? There’s textbook and real world, and any nurse that’s worked is going to know what that means.

 Bob:

That’s a good way to put it.

Isaiah:

You travel for money or location, typically. Typically, you’re money-driven, you’re going wherever Mr. Greenback resides, or you want to see the mountains, or you want to go here in the summer and here in the winter. That’s kind of the two main reasons to travel. It’s cool that you can have both; you can have a mix of both. I think you and I are probably a mix of both. We appreciate the financial benefits of it, but we kind of were checking up — you were in Salt Lake City multiple times; you loved it. I had places I wanted to go; it was pretty cool. Some of them I wanted warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was good.

Bob:

I always tell people: I would have done the travel nursing gig if they had paid me less just because, like you said, I took four months off, and I went to Asia, New Zealand, and Australia, and I would not have been able to do that as easily without the financial stability. Again, the people I got to meet and the places I got to go, and at the end of the day, I would have done it if they had paid me less. I want to go to the Grand Tetons next week; I’m going to go.

Isaiah:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, and the whole politics of a staff nurse too is really big. A lot of travelers will say that. You’re usually not required to go to staff meetings, and if you are, you’re getting paid well for it. You’re under that whole thing of, if you don’t like it, great, you’re done in 13 weeks. And if you love it, great, extend for 13 weeks. You are kind of your own boss, if that makes sense, to some respect. You kind of decide when you work, how long you work, if the money is right, what days off you have, etc. You don’t feel like you’re under their thumb; you’re not going in for yearly evals. Here’s your 40-cent raise; thanks for being such a great employee.

Bob:

If you could give one piece of advice to decompress to staff and travel nurses out there, what would you say?

Isaiah:

I would say do what makes you happy. I know that sounds really cliché, but do what makes you excited, and do it with people you care about. I mean, that’s how I recharge, right? Whether it’s travel, whether it’s other activities, whether it’s basketball, it doesn’t matter, but something that you’re really passionate about doing and maybe something you’d be doing if you weren’t selling your time for money, do that, and do it with people you care about. That’s how I recharge; that’s my version of getting in a good space. And interesting, Bob, really quick, I’ll finish with this: I read a study from some psychologist that said that looking forward to a vacation was actually more beneficial to the mind than actually going on the vacation itself. So, having something to look forward to, whether it’s the end of your 13-week contract, whether it’s that week off you took in the middle of your contract where you’re going to Mexico to go fly fishing and maybe seeing some Mayan ruins or something. That is even better than the actual action of going on the trip itself. Having something to look forward to, maybe that hope or light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. Take it for what it’s worth, but I thought that was interesting.

Bob:

Well, stay safe. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you, and we’ll talk soon.

Isaiah:

You betcha. Nice seeing you again, man.

About the author

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank is a content specialist at CHG Healthcare. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and exploring Utah’s desert landscapes.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Archives

Ready to get started?

Let us know where to reach you, and a recruiter will be in touch shortly.

Questions? 800.866.0407

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.