VMS, Direct, and MSP: Get to Know the 3 Types of Facilities That Accept Travel Nurses

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, December 10, 2020 Posted in Healthcare Facilities

vms vs direct vs msp

Most travel nurses choose to find positions with the help of a travel nursing agency, like Health Providers Choice. The agency fields available contracts and staffs them with qualified nurses. Seems simple, right? For nurses, it should be — after all, that’s a big reason many nurses work with an agency! But behind the scenes, there’s more to it than that.

In today’s travel nursing climate, there are three major elements hospitals use to procure travel nurses: Vendor Management Systems (VMS), Managed Service Providers (MSP), and direct relationships. A facility might use one or a combination of these for travel nurse staffing. It’s worth understanding how these elements affect everything from contract availability to staffing. Here’s a brief overview of each.


Vendor management systems are software systems that help hospitals and/or staffing agencies manage travel nurses and their documentation. A VMS will track job openings, pricing and billing, contracts, compliance documentation, and more — essentially everything that goes into procuring and managing a travel nurse for an assignment.

VMS takes the manual tracking work off of the hospital’s shoulders. Hospitals may use a VMS on their own, but it’s more likely that they’ll hire an MSP to manage it.


A managed service provider is a third-party agency that manages the entire travel nursing labor process from start to finish. These companies might be considered “external HR” for the hospital; they serve as a middleman. An MSP oversees the hiring and placement of a travel nurse within a facility, credentialing, billing, and more. Most MSPs use a VMS — whether it’s their own technology or another company’s — to track travel nurses and their relationships with staffing agencies (or “vendors”).

An MSP is not a travel nursing agency — they are a separate party that manages the relationships between staffing agencies and hospitals. However, some MSPs have their own travel nurse staffing arms. Depending on the way the MSP operates, the company’s own travel nurses might receive priority placement, or they might be vendor-neutral, meaning any affiliated agency can submit travel nurses for open positions.

In many cases, an MSP will maintain exclusive contracts with hospitals, meaning all travel nurses for the facility must be hired through the MSP. The benefit of an MSP is that they often have relationships with more facilities than staffing agencies do on an individual basis. This can open up more possibilities for travel nurse placement.

Direct relationships

Direct relationships are used when hospitals handle travel nurse staffing internally and work with a select few staffing agencies to procure nurses. In this type of system, there is a direct line of communication between the staffing agency and the hospital. However, this type of system sometimes creates confusion when hospitals work with multiple agencies to meet their needs.

assignment options

Staffing systems will impact your assignment options

On the surface, it might appear that travel agencies get their pick of facilities across the nation, if there’s an open position. This isn’t true, however. The facilities available to you will depend on the procurement system they use, as well as their relationship with your agency. These systems can vary regionally, as well as by individual facility based on their staffing needs.

Understanding the system your agency uses can help you get a clearer picture of where you might end up on assignment, what your contract could look like, and what the hiring process entails.

It can take time to get acclimated to the different nuances of travel nursing — especially when it comes to contracts and facilities. If you have questions, your Health Providers Choice recruiter can answer them. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800 to learn more about the different types of facilities and what accepting a contract is like for each.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.