There are so many agencies out there today. When I started anesthesia over 24 years ago there were only a handful of anesthesia staffing companies. As I am writing this now my computer keeps dinging with mass text from all the agencies that have added me to their list without my permission. I usually write articles geared toward the provider’s view but let’s take a look at it from the Facility/Group side. Why would one choose one agency over another? In this article I will discuss 5 things to look for when choosing an agency to help solve staffing shortages at your sites.

First, you need to find someone who understands the business. Do they truly understand the anesthesia providers they are trying to recruit? Do they understand what you are looking for and how to screen that candidate appropriately to make sure they can fill that role? Many recruiting firms today are quickly expanding by hiring new recruiters with limited or no experience. They do not have a good feel for what level of experience the provider has nor do they understand the true needs of the facilities. How can someone who does not understand the roles and responsibility of a CRNA adequately recruit an appropriate candidate? Make sure you are working with an agency who has that experience. There is no better feeling than to hear a practice manager or chief at a facility brag on the candidates you deliver.

Second, Can you trust the agency? Can you trust they are screening these candidates appropriately? If you are looking for someone who can do pediatric cases but you get a CV from an agency with a provider who clearly states they do not do pediatric cases then how can you trust they know what provider they are trying to recruit. Can you trust that the agency will pay that provider? There have been several “fly by night” agencies over the last several years who have not paid their providers on time or at all due to lack of finances. Have you vetted that the agency you are working with is financially sound? Don’t be afraid to ask.

Third, does the agency work well with you and your credentialing team? Does the agency have a dedicated person who will work closely with your team to make sure all the appropriate applications, licensure and other needed files are provided in a consistent and timely manner? Credentialing has become such a major part of this business and you must have someone who knows how to do it right. Delays in credentialing not only prolong the staffing burden of the facility but also can lead to lost revenue.

Fourth, Is the agency upfront with all of its costs? I recently spoke with a practice manager who was upset over an increase in lodging cost that he did not agree to. He was getting charged 50/night more for a provider’s lodging. When he asked the agency they stated that the provider did not like his original hotel so he moved to a pricier one. While this is the provider’s right to change hotels, it was not agreed upon at the increased price. Instead of going back to the practice manager to discuss this issue the agency started sending bills with the higher lodging cost. It was not caught for several weeks. Do you have an agency that you know is honest and upfront in their billing? As a practice manager you have many responsibilities. Do you remember the old cell phone bills from the 90’s? When you opened the bill there must have been every single call you made with all the charges laid out beside it. How on earth were you to really know if it was accurate? In the same way some agencies bury you in admin fees and other costs and it can be very difficult to follow.

Fifth, Is the agency responsive? When you have a problem can you get your agency on the phone? When you send an email concerning an issue do you have to wait 24 hrs to get a response? I really do not know why communication proves to be difficult for so many but from experience it is a universal problem.

To conclude, consider these 5 things above when choosing your next agency. You want someone who understands the business and the provider. You are looking for someone you can trust. Make sure they have dedicated staff to work with your credentialing department. Any bills you get from the agency should be clear and fall in line with the original pay schedule. No surprise charges should ever be found. Finally, if they are not responding to you then time to move on.