An increasing number of permanent staff nurses are making the switch to travel nursing—and for good reason. Travel nursing offers a plethora of opportunities and benefits. Travel nursing has the potential for better pay, tax-free stipends, and the opportunity to gain nursing experience by serving a myriad of patient populations in a variety of facilities.
Travel nurses typically work 13-week contracts opening up many possibilities for spending free time, including experiencing a region’s unique attractions, finding local hidden gems, and maybe even checking off a bucket-list item or two.
A travel nurse housing stipend is a pre-determined tax-free allowance paid by the travel nursing agency to cover housing expenses during the length of the contract. Housing stipends vary depending on the location of the assignment and the cost of living in the area. Housing stipends are provided from the bill rate that the hospital agrees to pay the agency for the travel nurse's work.
Most travel nursing agencies offer a choice between company-provided housing or a housing stipend. Travel nurse housing accommodations are typically handled in one of two ways: either the agency helps travel nurses find housing or the travel nurse is given a stipend and is responsible for booking their housing arrangements. Some travel nurses prefer agency-arranged housing for their first few assignments and then begin to book their accommodations once they master the rhythms of traveling and become an experienced travel nurse. Many opt for the convenience of agency bookings throughout their careers, while some want to navigate the short-term housing market solo for various personal reasons.
Some nurses may travel with their significant other, children, or pets. These nurses may need a two-bedroom apartment versus a nurse traveling alone and only needing one-bedroom accommodations. Other travel nurses may be able to stay with local friends or family, allowing them to take the tax-free stipend and save money. Whatever your travel situation is, you can consult with your travel nurse agency to find the best option for you and your travel needs.
How Does a Travel Nurse Housing Stipend Work?
Travel nurses who choose not to use the company-provided housing will receive a tax-free travel nursing house stipend to pay for their travel nurse housing, utilities, and furniture. Housing stipends vary depending on the length and location of the contract. Short-term contracts may pay more or less depending on the needs of the hospital, as well as the time of the year. Cost of living within a large city like New York City may be more expensive than in a rural area like Syracuse, so your housing stipend will depend on your assignment location. Nurses can try to save money and maximize their housing stipend by finding housing on the outskirts of cities, however, you will want to calculate the cost of gas and travel time to determine what will be most beneficial to you.
There are advantages to both company-provided housing and housing stipends. The primary benefit of agency-booked housing is that it’s zero hassle. The agency arranges your living space, furniture, and utilities so that all you need to bring are your clothes and personal belongings. Given that a travel nurse typically has only a few days or weeks between getting the assignment and the first day of work, relying on the agency for housing alleviates a last-minute scramble to put all of the puzzle pieces in place. Company-provided housing saves you time having to research and set up housing and eliminates upfront costs for housing. In areas that have a housing crunch or an exorbitant cost of living, agencies may have existing relationships with property managers that ensure travel nurses have access to housing that meets their needs.
Unless a travel nurse arranges their own accommodations, they won’t know what type of accommodations they will be staying in until they arrive. An agency will typically provide the travel nurse with available options, but there is no guarantee that their first choice will be booked.
Apartments: It’s common for agencies that regularly place travel nurses in certain cities to lease studio or one-bedroom apartments and rotate travel nurse tenants. It’s rare to co-house two travel nurses together, unless the travel nurses make such a request.
Extended-stay hotels: A room in an extended-stay hotel can offer the best of both worlds, either the privacy of an apartment or the convenience of a hotel. They typically have fully-equipped kitchens, on-site laundry facilities, and lobby breakfast bars. Wi-Fi, premium television channels, and housekeeping service round out the amenities. An extended hotel stay can be a good option for nurses who are traveling alone and do not have many personal items.
Campus housing: Some hospitals and other medical facilities may own housing units for medical professionals working in the facility temporarily. An agency may use a hospital’s campus housing for travel nurse accommodations.
Private homes: Agencies work with property owners though sites like Airbnb or FurnishedFinder to secure short-term furnished rentals. This is often a good option for travel nurses who are planning to bring families and pets.
The beauty of travel nursing is that you can use company-provided housing for one assignment and then receive a stipend for your next one. It's not a one-and-done commitment, you have the libertry to decide what works best for you in each situation. Housing is one of many considerations when contemplating a career move from permanent staff nursing to travel nursing. There is such a variety of agency-booked accommodations and DIY housing that virtually all travel nurses can find the right fit.
Important Things to Know with Housing Stipends for Travel Nurses
The General Services Administration (GSA) establishes per diem rates for destinations within the Continental United States (CONUS). This system was initially used for Federal government employees but its use has expanded and is now the standard for rates allowable for all types of non-government employees including healthcare travelers. Standardizing tax-free stipends, such as housing, helps to avoid confusion and ensure travel nursing agencies follow regulations regarding stipend rates.
The GSA website allows you to enter your travel destination and see a column-by-column breakdown of the per diem rates in each county in every state. Daily lodging is broken down by month so you can check rates for the length of your contract. If you are researching potential travel assignments, you can use the GSA tool to find out housing stipend and per diem rates for the area.
Most travel nurses qualify for a per diem daily amount that is added to their pay for housing, meals & incidentals during their travel assignment. To qualify for tax-free stipends, nurses must maintain a tax home or a place of residence that you maintain while away on a travel assignment. If you choose not to keep a “permanent” residence or tax home, you may be responsible for taxes on the stipends you receive. Make sure you communicate with your recruiter about your tax home status. Our credentialing specialists will help determine if you qualify for per diems. You may be required to complete a worksheet to determine eligibility. Reach out to our recruiters for any of your travel nurse housing FAQs to ensure compliance with your taxes and can get the most benefit out of your housing stipend.
Health Carousel Travel Nursing has a dedicated travel and housing team available to provide housing recommendations, set up housing, give exclusive hotel and rental car discounts, and answer all the critical information you need to book accommodations that are right for you. Our state-specific recruiters are local experts who can provide advice on what to do in the area during your assignment and offer travel nurse housing support.
HCTN also offers a per diem assistance program to extend travel nurse housing support to nurses who choose the tax-free per diem instead of company-assisted housing. We provide research, discounts for an extended hotel stay, and answer questions about all your housing needs, allowing you to take full advantage of the financial benefits of housing stipends without the burden of finding housing alone.
Our recruiters also offer full circle support to help review practical tips and resources for travel nurses. Contact HCTN today to discuss travel nurse housing options and stipends with our agency housing department. We are here to answer any of your travel nurse housing FAQs so that you can find the best fit that works for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to choose which option I want for housing for my entire travel nursing career?
No! The best part about travel nursing and housing options is that you can change them with each new contract for each assignment. If you have family or friends to stay with in the area of your assignment location, you can pocket the housing stipend and save money. Some travel nurses prefer to utilize company-provided housing if they are traveling alone to a new area and aren't picky about accommodations. Experienced travel nurses may prefer to find their own housing accommodations because they are traveling with family or want to choose where they will stay. One of the best benefits of travel nursing is being able to pick and choose where you want to travel to and where you want to stay, while having it covered for you or being reimbursed.
What types of housing will I be staying in as a travel nurse?
Travel nurses may be placed in apartments, or private houses like Airbnbs, campus housing provided by the hospital, or even in an extended hotel stay accommodation. Travel nurse housing is pretty flexible, and you always have the option to find your accommodations and receive a housing stipend.
Will the travel nurse agency help me find housing?
Yes! Agencies will assign you to company-provided housing or reimburse you for accommodations you find on your own in the form of a housing stipend. Health Carousel Travel Nursing has recruiters that specialize in helping travel nurses find housing. If you are an experienced travel nurse,or this is your first assignment, HCTN will support you in all your travel nurse housing needs.
Lauren Rivera is a nationally certified neonatal intensive care nurse with over 15 years of experience. She serves as a nurse expert offering support and educational classes for women from preconception through childhood. Lauren is also a freelance health and wellness writer with works published on several nursing sites. She develops and curates content for various healthcare companies, and writes continuing education modules for other healthcare professionals.
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