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Where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what the future holds for the travel healthcare community

Rich Smith

Why Atlas MedStaff is shepherding Highway Hypodermics, and why we decided to drop the annual Top Ten agency list

By Rich Smith

Co-Owner / CMO, Atlas MedStaff


We’ve talked before, but it’s worth a short re-introduction. My name is Rich Smith. I started Atlas MedStaff® in 2012 and co-own it with my friend Steve Ryan (remember that name, it’ll come up again).

You all know Kay Slane. She owned Highway Hypodermics for 20 years.

She’s an industry legend; and has helped so many nurses and travelers over the years with everything from basic questions to complex situations.

Her impact on our industry cannot be understated, and I have nothing but amazing gratitude for her work and service.

A history of trust, a legacy of traveling healthcare

Atlas MedStaff purchased Highway Hypodermics from Kay in January 2023. She had expressed an interest in retiring (or at least slowing down a bit) and wanted to make sure that the labor of love that she had grown and cultivated for the past 20 years wasn’t going to just die or fall into hands of a company that didn’t appreciate it.

That’s where we came in.

Kay and Steve go way back. He was her first recruiter and got her the very first travel contract she worked! In the mid 2000s, she came to Omaha — the center of the travel healthcare industry — multiple times to visit and help young recruiters and client managers like myself, who were just starting out in the business.

I learned so much from her, and I knew we’d be exactly what she needed to keep the dream of Highway Hypodermics alive.

Building forward for the community, *with* the community

Now comes the hard part. How can an agency own a product like Highway Hypodermics and Travel Nursing Newbies and keep it neutral and unbiased?

We’ve seen this happen recently with another very large travel healthcare Facebook group selling to an agency, and what came of that after the transaction was completed.

I didn’t want that same thing to happen.

So, we hired Kay’s most active site admin, Tricia Novak, to run the day-to-day operations of the groups.

We’ve spent the last year revamping the advertising process and the website itself. Tricia has spent hours cleaning up the recruiters in the groups that may no longer be in the industry.

We’ve invested time and money into a brand-new video series from John and Kristin Farnsworth over at No Ordinary Path that maps out the step-by-step process of becoming a successful traveling healthcare professional. John is a longtime veteran travel nurse pro, and he and Kristin have worked to provide real, unbiased information for travelers.

If you haven’t watched that series yet, check them out over on the HH site.

‘From our home office in Wahoo, Nebraska’

So, with the idea to stay as neutral as possible, we’ve decided to eliminate The Annual Top Ten Agency list on Highway Hypodermics.

While Atlas has been on that list consistently over the years, there is simply no way to produce a list like this and have it seem unbiased and fair. There would always be questions, and rightfully so.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t good, reliable lists of successful and reputable agencies out there. One needs to look no further than Kyle Schmidt and BluePipes. They are 100% neutral, and his system of ranking agencies is one of the most complex I’ve ever seen.

If you haven’t been to BluePipes lately, I would recommend them and the work that they do. They are a great resource for new and veteran travelers looking for industry tips and insights — wherever you are on your travel healthcare journey

Looking forward to the future, helping the community learn and grow

This year, 2024, will be my twentieth year in travel healthcare. Travel nursing, allied healthcare, vendors, and contracts, and the whole shebang — we’ve grown and learned alongside the community.

And I’ve always felt a greater responsibility to the industry, to the community, beyond just the revenue it takes for an agency to be successful.

It’s the people that matter.

All of you taking care of our loved ones (and yours) in hospitals across the country. You have my word that Highway Hypodermics, and Travel Nursing Newbies, will remain neutral and unbiased.

We will continue to offer the very best content relevant to the travel healthcare industry, and we will strive to be the very best when it comes to offering each of you the tools you need to succeed in your career.

We’ve become kind of infamous in our commitment to travelers. And we’ll strive to do the same thing with this community. And if we screw up, you can contact me directly and let me know.

You can also reach out if you have other feedback, or something you’d like to see on the HH site. Or you want to talk Star Wars or TravCon or anything else.

We’re proud to be part of this community.

And we’re listening.

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