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Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Negotiating a Travel Nurse Contract

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Health Carousel Travel Nursing
September 1, 2022
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Negotiating a travel nurse contract can be complicated especially if it is your first time. You may be asking yourself, what’s the right rate of pay? Are there benefits that I should be asking for? What else do I need to be on the lookout for? Keep reading for the top 5 things you need to know when negotiating your travel nurse contract. 

Be Knowledgeable 

Even if this isn’t your first time as a travel nurse, it is still important to review your contract. Your contract should be a reflection of anything a recruiter or agency may have verbally promised, and you need to ensure these are written into your contract. So what should your contract include? 

Below is a list of elements that are typically found in every travel nurse contract: 

  • Assignment start and end dates
  • Contract term - The length of time you will be contracted to work at a facility. 
  • Contract shift - The shift you will be working, can be a day, night, or a combination of both. 
  • Approved time requests - If there were any days that have been approved for you to be off, make sure they have been written into your contract. 
  • Unit - Although the unit you will be assigned to may be listed in your contract, facilities can float you to other units.
  • Required hours - Some contracts may include guaranteed hours, but this may not be the case for all assignments. You’ll want to know whether the facility you will be working for allows for self-scheduling and gives you the ability to control your schedule. 
  • Cancellation Policy - It gives you an idea of how often or instances when the facility can cancel your shifts. 
  • Compensation - There are several categories of pay that can be listed which can include: 
  • Base hourly rate - The initial rate you receive 
  • On-call hourly rate - The hourly rate you are paid if you are placed on call. 
  • Per diem - The amount you receive for meals and other expenses. The rate may be per day or weekly and may be tax-free.
  • Reimbursement for housing and travel 
  • Housing allowance - This typically describes the type of housing you selected and the allowance you will be reimbursed. This rate is also usually tax-free. 
  • Travel reimbursement - This may or may not be offered depending on the agency and is the amount you will be reimbursed for travel expenses. 
  • Tax home - This identifies the location you consider “home” and return to regularly. You must show proof of residence such as a driver’s license, voter registration, utility bills, etc. 
  • Insurance Benefits - This discusses any medical, dental, life, or malpractice insurance that the travel nursing agency offers. 
  • Penalty for missed hours: It is important to note that most contracts will include a penalty fee for missed hours if you decide to call off a scheduled shift. You may also lose some of the reimbursement for your housing and travel. Some agencies might allow you to be reimbursed if you pick up additional hours so negotiate this if possible. 

Communicate Upfront

Communication is key during the contract negotiation process. Make it easy on yourself and your recruiter. By communicating your needs upfront you can avoid potential problems later on. 

Set concise and clear expectations about the type of nursing assignment you are looking for. If you see something that is not addressed in your contract, ask about it. Don’t hesitate to ask about the requirements of the assignment, facility expectations, and what the travel nursing agency can offer. Below is a list of questions to ask your recruiter either before or during the contract negotiation process. 

Pay and additional expenses 

  • Are my hours and pay rate guaranteed? 
  • How often will I be paid? 
  • What is the method for payment- direct deposit or via check? 
  • Who will pay for my move, housing, and utility expenses? 

Health Insurance 

  • If insurance is offered, what are the costs and coverage for each type? 
  • When does insurance coverage begin and what services are covered? Are pre-existing conditions covered? 
  • Can this insurance be used in other states or countries? 

Additional benefits

  • Do you offer a 401(k)? 
  • Is a loyalty program offered? 
  • Do you offer sign-on bonuses, referral bonuses, or any other bonuses? 
  • Does the agency provide support with licensing and credentialing needs? 

Assignments

  • What is the nurse/patient ratio per shift?
  • What type of charting system is used? 
  • What are the float requirements? 
  • Are there any on-call expectations? 

Know your Value

One of the most important aspects of your contract negotiation will be your rate of compensation. Most travel nursing agencies offer competitive pay. Do your research to ensure you are getting the rate that is best for you. How can you do this? Make sure you know your numbers. 

The average travel nurse salary in the US is $2443 per week, however, the pay can vary greatly by city and state. Some nurses can make from $3000 to $7000 per week with a 36-hour average work week. Several factors influence pay rates including special training or certifications, and the addition or lack of additional per diems for travel, and housing. 

If you have specialized training and certifications or have many years of experience, use this to your advantage. Research what registered nurse travelers in your specialty are making in other cities and states and start from there. 

Be Flexible

Travel nursing offers you flexibility, freedom, and so much more. Choose a travel nursing agency that works for you and your career. There is not a one-size-fits-all contract, and what works for another travel nurse might not work for you. This is where the flexibility comes in. You may need to compromise on some contract terms to get what you want on others. 

Prioritize your needs and make a list of the non-negotiable items and items that are less important. Use this list to negotiate what you want for your career and your lifestyle.   

It can take some time to find the travel nursing agency that is right for you. Don’t be afraid to turn offers down if they don’t align with you and your career goals. 

Health Carousel Travel Nursing puts its nurses first. For nurses and allied professionals, travel may be a way of life or simply a means to an end. We build loyal relationships through conversations and excellent service, with no preconceived notions about a professional’s career path. Where you’ve come from isn’t always where you’re going.

You need a travel nursing agency that will communicate clearly and advocate for you during the contract negotiation process. 

We view our relationship as much more than a transaction. We want to serve you through your entire career as you work in the country’s top facilities, explore new specialties, network with like-minded professionals, and boost your resume. Greater flexibility and mobility allow you to choose an experience that fits where you are in your life, whether you’re up for an adventure, a change of scenery, or settling down. 

Work with recruiters who understand you, and your specialty and who work to get you the perfect contract every time.

Why HCTN?

  • Recruiters consult with you on your short- and long-term personal and professional career goals, including education and advancement.
  • Our On Demand app allows you to manage documents and apply to assignments based on your preferences, all from the palm of your hand.
  • We present you with jobs that match your preferences and priorities.

Author Bio

Lizzette Cruz, MS, RN

Lizzette is a freelance nurse writer specializing in health and wellness content with 8+ years of experience in the Cardiovascular Research field. Her background includes a BS in Physiology and MS in Nursing.

Health Carousel Travel Nursing

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

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