Karen Jones is looking for her next adventure. The Louisiana-based nurse, 54, is wrapping up her second 13-week stint at Texas Children’s Hospital in The Woodlands. Next up: 13 weeks at a hospital in Washington state. And after that—who knows? She’d love to treat patients in Hawaii, New York or Miami, and she’s in the phase of her life where she can travel anywhere she wants.
“My husband and I have an empty nest for the first time in 29 years,” Jones said, contemplating her next destination.
Jones is part of a cadre of health care professionals known as travel nurses who take short-term jobs across the country, filling the gap for hospitals and other health care providers that face temporary staff shortages. In some cases, they’re younger professionals who aren’t bound by family or homeownership to a specific location. Others, like Jones, are exploring newfound freedom after their children leave home.
The arrangement gives nurses the chance to explore the country and gain new professional experiences. And it allows employers to respond quickly when their staffing is affected by turnover, new facility openings, natural disasters or seasonal fluctuations.
San Francisco-based Trusted Health is Jones’ 21st-century matchmaker, and the company is attracting significant investment for its innovative approach. Part of the Texas Medical Center’s TMCx accelerator in 2018, Trusted Health received investment from the TMC Venture Fund. In May, the company announced it had closed a $20 million funding round. Earlier this year, Trusted Health reported that more than 1,000 nurses per week were signing up for its platform.
“For us to have an impact on health care is such an incredible mission,” said co-founder and president Matthew Pierce. “If we really connect people to opportunities in a much more efficient way, we can have an incredible impact on an industry that needs it.”
Travel nurses, Pierce said, want flexibility, autonomy and new experiences. He cites one group of Trusted nurses that works in San Diego in the winter and Colorado in the spring.
Pierce’s company didn’t invent the industry, but it streamlined the process of recruiting and hiring travel nurses using a two-pronged approach. Its app—similar to a dating app—introduces nurses to potential job opportunities based on their background and preferences. Then, during the hiring process, Trusted employs clinicians called “nurse advocates” to offer a human touch. In the past, nurses found short-term jobs through recruiters. Trusted’s approach, Pierce said, is a much-needed alternative. “The old, antiquated way is you’re held hostage and have to get on the phone with the recruiter,” Pierce said. “The recruiter is haggling with you. The recruiter doesn’t have a clinical background, and you’re struggling to get information.”
Unlike traditional recruiters, Trusted employees aren’t paid based on commissions or quotas, company leaders said. As a result, they aren’t pressured to get a nurse contract signed at all costs.
Jones, the Louisiana nurse, said Trusted’s approach is unique, since the use of technology streamlines a process that can be cumbersome.
She also said other nurse recruiters are known to harangue nurses, while Trusted has a softer approach.
Nurses input their background information onto the platform and are presented with job options based on their preferences, including when they want to work, their specialty and their preferred locations. If they like what they see, they can request an interview. Trusted’s “nurse advocates” screen the nurses to make sure they’re the right fit.
If all works out, Trusted handles licensing, benefits and payroll. Trusted—not the health care provider—pays the nurses.
“Trusted sends you an email with [job] matches,” Jones explained. “You apply if you want to and you don’t if you don’t want to. It’s very technologically savvy.”
She also texts regularly with her “nurse advocate,” which she says is helpful because their schedules don’t align. (Jones works nights.)
“The whole process is just so easy,” said Jones, who secured her gig with Texas Children’s Hospital just 24 hours after applying through Trusted.
The company is starting to explore “on-demand” nursing assignments—think Uber for nursing. It’s also developing a platform that connects directly to health care providers’ scheduling and human resources systems.
Sarah Gray, Trusted Health’s founding nurse and head of clinical operations, said the company is responding to the changing demands of the nursing workforce. “What a nurse wants, values, and cares about—and the tools they expect to manage their careers—has really evolved,” she said. “We saw Trusted as an opportunity to be a fresh face for the profession and empower nurses to take control over their careers and perceive themselves as the professionals that they are.”
The company works to build communities of travel nurses in their new cities, organizes events for them and promotes respect and dignity for the profession through its marketing channels.
“That’s what really draws nurses to Trusted,” Gray said. “The relevance, the technology, the ease, the seamlessness, our ‘nurses first’ mission and brand. To us, nurses aren’t a commodity.”
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