Working as a travel nurse can be exciting, rewarding, and intimidating all at the same time. After finding the perfect travel nurse recruiter through HCTN, below are a few items to consider before accepting any travel nursing assignment.
Your Goals and Expectations
First, determine your goals and what you want to get out of becoming a travel nurse. Some examples of goals would be to gain more experience or skills, have the ability to travel, make new friends, or expand your career options. Take some time to do some research to determine what you want out of your travel nursing assignment before speaking to your recruiter. Research specific cities, locations, and healthcare systems that interest you. Learn what is around that area to help manage your expectations and travel goals. Several travel nursing assignments are in rural areas or have a high cost of living, which is important to consider because they can reduce your net income.
Compensation and Benefits
Besides the initial pay package, which defines the number of hours and hourly pay rate, you should also consider the cost of medical benefits and potential travel reimbursement. Most travel nursing companies offer little or no-cost medical and dental benefits to their employees. Ask about this and paid time off (PTO) eligibility when speaking to your recruiter. If you have a spouse or dependents that need medical or dental coverage, make sure to ask what the cost is per paycheck. Next, inquire about travel reimbursement and the allotted amount. Assess the costs of getting to and from your travel assignment from your home location, whether it be by car or plane.
In addition to your hourly rate, ask if there is a minimum hour guarantee, on-call pay, and if overtime hours are available. Sometimes shifts can be canceled or you are placed on-call. This affects your weekly pay, so it is important to ask about these payment nuances that differ with each assignment. Before accepting an assignment and signing a contract, make sure these conditions are written in your contract. Many travel nursing agencies also offer a daily meal stipend and housing stipend. Other companies may offer to pay for housing instead of issuing a stipend. Housing and meal stipends may be tax-deductible or tax-free, so think about consulting a tax specialist. A tax specialist can help determine tax benefit eligibility before accepting an assignment.
Expectations of the Hospital and Assignment
With all things considered, there is a reason the hospital is hiring travel nurses and typically this is because there is a staffing shortage. Thus, it is important to make sure to ask the healthcare facility you are interviewing with some essential questions. Ask about the unit’s nurse-to-patient ratios, and the acuity and types of ailments of their typical patients. It is important to ask this because types of units (orthopedic, intensive care units, etc.) can differ depending on the hospital. Sometimes units have the potential for overstaffing travel nurses. Ask about the hospital’s cancellation and floating policies and compare these to your assignment contract. Also, if your assignment falls over a holiday, ask if you are required to work the holiday or are allowed to take personal time off (PTO).
It is always important to weigh the pros and cons of each travel nursing assignment before accepting your offer. Overall, the assignment should align with your needs, goals, and salary expectations. Finding the perfect travel assignment can be difficult. Do not feel pressured to accept the first offer that comes your way because there are always more opportunities awaiting.
Amanda Marten NP-C, MSN is a certified Nurse Practitioner with over three years of experience. She has 8 years of nursing experience and has worked in a variety of specialties including urgent care, travel nursing, post-surgical, and intensive care.