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“Who would I rather work for?” TRS Healthcare asks their travel nurses to consider. “A corporate suit that has never seen a hospital floor, or a person who has worn scrubs and walked 1,000 miles in my shoes?”

Founded by an RN, TRS Healthcare holds their nurses at the very center of everything they do. This has been a recipe for success — the company has an annual growth rate of over 19% and is one of Staffing Industry Analysts’ fastest-growing staffing firms.

StaffingHub sat down with TRS Healthcare’s Marketing Lead, Frank Whalen, and their Creative Lead, Tracy V, to better understand the culture, values, and tactics that have set them up for success.

What do you think sets TRS Healthcare apart?

Frank: I think definitely one of the things that sets TRS Healthcare apart from everyone else is Diana [Wright, Founder and CEO of TRS]. She has such an amazing story.

It isn’t generally known, but Diana was diagnosed with cancer about five years ago and given only a few months to live. She spent the bulk of that time saying, “TRS is my baby, and I want to make sure that my nurses and my recruiters have jobs before I go.”

Finally, one of our recruiters told her, “I found this procedure. You need to check it out.” She did. She had to go abroad to get it, but it cured her cancer. She has lived for five more years — after they gave her just a few more months.

So, we saw Diana saying, “I have limited time, and I’m spending it making sure all my people are taken care of.”

For us, as a company, that stays at the heart of everything we do. We say that our job is to serve nurses and we mean it.

“The same way that Diana would take care of us, we’re going to take care of our nurses, because to us, they are Diana.” — Frank Whalen, TRS Marketing Lead

They’re just like her. They’re out there caring for patients. They’re saving lives.

So, that really sets us apart, because that’s our primary goal. There are no quotas to meet. There are people to take care of. There are lives to be saved. So, we don’t waste time and we don’t deceive. If we can’t do something, we will tell our nurses, because if we’re wasting someone’s time, a patient will go without treatment.

We have a motto: when you join TRS, you join a family. — Tracy V, TRS Creative Lead

I have seen so many of our recruiters help our nurses even if they don’t have an assignment for them. They answer their calls, even if a nurse is traveling with another company. Our team really cares about their nurses.

What would you say are a few of the most important qualities in a recruiter and your recruiters?

Tracy: I think a recruiter that listens. That doesn’t think about the sale and the pitch, but truly listens to the nurse and what she wants in a situation. I think somebody who can think outside the box and just get down with the nurse and say, “What are your goals, and how can we get you there?”

Frank: Every recruiter is different. Every nurse is different. You might partner up with a nurse who isn’t really communicative about their feelings. But if you’re listening, you can say, “Are you okay? Did you have a bad shift? Is something going on at home? What can I help you with?”

People have different ways of asking for help. Sometimes it’s by lashing out, sometimes it’s by tears, sometimes it’s by avoiding communication. And when you are listening, you’re able to pick up on those things. And that makes for a deeper connection, because all of a sudden that traveler realizes, “My company cares about me. My recruiter cares about me and is doing everything they can to help me out.”

Along with the ability to listen, recruiters need to remember that travelers are human beings. That nurse has kids or a spouse or parents to take care of. That nurse has a mortgage. There are a lot of different factors that are instrumental in setting up that nurse for success. If that nurse doesn’t succeed, really nobody does — not the patients, the traveler, the company, or the facility.

What would you say are some of the bad habits that have seeped into staffing and recruiting as an industry?

Frank: Nurses are brilliant, or they wouldn’t be nurses. But when a recruiter tells you what you want to hear, you’re inclined to believe it. And often, if it sounds too good to be true in recruiting, it’s usually because it is.

I think a lot of the companies are just interested in getting you through all the paperwork. They end up submitting you to places without your permission and then telling nurses to take it or leave it.

“When healthcare became a business, deception came into the recruiting process.” — Frank Whalen, TRS Marketing Lead

And that’s in all levels of healthcare. So, when you have quotas to meet, and leaders who tell you that you’re going to be fired if you don’t meet them, it creates a culture of deception. It means everybody cuts corners, and everybody blurs the lines a little bit. And that’s the wrong approach.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that recruiters face right now?

Frank: I think one of the biggest challenges recruiters have is that travel nurses don’t trust them. Travel nurses have been hurt by their recruiters, they’ve been deceived, so when they hear that someone is a recruiter, they automatically pull back. The defenses go up because they’re associating that with the bad experiences they’ve had with recruiters in the past.

We’re trying to distance ourselves from that by asking, “What do you want? What is your motivation for traveling, and what can we do to help?” We’re trying to change that by getting their stories and by keeping them at the center of everything we do.

What are the everyday techniques, tools, or strategies that your team uses to set TRS up for success?

Frank: The bulk of our business comes from referrals. Before you go and buy something on Amazon, you’re going to read the reviews. How much more stock do you put into the opinions of a friend? A family member? Somebody that you know and value and trust? When they tell you, “this is a great staffing company” — that’s huge.

I think companies really need to start looking at software to help free up their recruiters, and we are definitely in the forefront of doing that. — Tracy V, TRS Creative Lead

It is important to just let the recruiters be recruiters and not be note-takers or to be constantly trying to get nurses on the phone.

Frank: Big time. I think, just to play off of that a little bit, the more that we can automate the time-consuming, mind-numbing stuff that needs to happen, the more we can free up both the nurse and the recruiter for more meaningful work. And we always need to remember that the one thing that we can’t automate is communication and connection. So, the goal is to integrate the technology without losing the heart, without losing the connection.

What kind of information are travel nurses seeking from their agencies?

Frank: I would say there is a lot of curiosity about what we do as a company. One of the things that we’ve tried to do is be very transparent. To pull back the curtain and say, “This is how it works.”

What we try to say is, “We deal with a VMS, Vendor Management System or an MSP, Managed Service Provider, and they charge us a fee for every contract. So, this is also cutting into your profits, because it’s cutting into ours, and it’s a mutual burden that has to be borne.”

Tracy: I think when we are more transparent, it bridges that gap because so many nurses have had bad experiences with travel companies. They believe that travel companies are just trying to rip them off.

That’s not the case. You are going through a middleman, and all those middlemen have to get paid too, because they find housing, manage credentialing, pay the recruiters who take care of you. So, it does cut in, but I think being more transparent and explaining how things are helps travel nurses understand: we’re not here to rip you off. We’re here to help you. We’re here to further your career.

Frank: Also, with the growth of social media, people want something to believe in. They want to feel a connection to something. And if you’re telling them a story, and that story affects them personally, they’re more likely to be interested or pay attention. That works much better than just saying, “We’re the best, and that’s all you need to know.”

People have the ability to have their own voice on social media, and they have the ability to be transparent and to say, “Let’s be partners. You don’t work for me. I don’t work for you. We’re going to work together.” When you can find those relationships and see them develop, that’s a beautiful thing.

Where do you see the industry going in the next five years?

Frank: In the travel nursing industry, we’ve seen giant, conglomerate corporations coming in and buying up other giant, conglomerate corporations, buying up facilities and centralizing control of everything. That has become a massive detriment to our industry.

We’re seeing too much control in the hands of too few. And, in a lot of these corporations, none of the people making the big decisions have every been in healthcare. They wear suits instead of scrubs, which creates a huge a disconnect.

When healthcare became a business, the heart was removed, and the industry has become more cutthroat. — Frank Whalen, TRS Marketing Lead

I think that there is going to be a backlash against these giant corporations, against the control that they have. And I think that the backlash is coming from the travelers themselves. They are opting out of the system because it isn’t beneficial to them. They’re refusing to work for people who have no idea what they do day in and day out.

So, I think that there will be a change. There will be a reckoning. And, we’re hopeful that, as a smaller company than these giants, we’re able to collaborate with them. We’d like to work together to get to the point where the giant companies won’t have all the control because we’re all standing up together.

Tracy: I also see, with conglomerate companies taking up so much space, that companies are going to start looking at how to personalize and make the experience better for the traveler. And I think that’s going to benefit the travelers. It’s going to help them get more honesty, better pay. Companies need to look at ways they can truly help and make the traveler’s life easier. They’re going to realize the true value of their nurses.

Looking for more interviews with the fast-growing staffing firms? Check out our entire interview series.