My travel assignment hourly rate is lower than expected, now what?

Travel nursing and allied health assignment pay packages can be quite confusing when you first take a look at them. Watch this video for a breakdown of them and why benefits are important for you as a traveler.

My travel assignment hourly rate is lower than expected, now what?

Travel nursing and allied health pay packages can be quite confusing when you first take a look at them.

In staff roles, the entire focus is on hourly wages and shift differentials. For travel assignments, your pay package consists of an hourly wage and tax free per diems - along with any other reimbursements provided by your agency for each individual assignment. Shift differentials aren’t normally provided, but there are differentials offered for things like charge and preceptor responsibilities. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your overtime wage, and should be shooting for greater than 1.5 times your hourly wage for overtime and call-back hours. All of those details will be outlined in your assignment confirmation letter.

Also, how many hours are you contracted per week and are these guaranteed?

If you’re guaranteed a certain amount of hours per week, that’s nothing to ignore. Some healthcare systems place their travelers on call if the census runs low or might call you off completely. So having guaranteed hours provides confidence in a consistent paycheck. Keep in mind that not all hospitals will guarantee all of your hours, some may leave room for a few cancellations each assignment. In those cases, it’s important to ask your agency how canceled hours that are not guaranteed will impact any other areas of your pay package.

Next, pay attention to your tax-free stipends, specifically housing and meals & incidentals. Since they are tax-free, you’ll be bringing home all of those dollars without having the burden of taxes. This is allowed by the government to help to offset the cost of duplicating living expenses between home and your assignment location. Sometimes these can represent 50% or more of your total overall pay package, meaning you’ll bring home more money at the end of the week. You’ll be taxed more if your hourly rate is higher, so opting for higher stipends and a lower hourly rate could have a big impact on what you take home.

Also, consider other benefits that your pay package offers. If the travel nurse and allied health agency offers affordable medical and dental insurance, this is a huge money saver. Paying for health insurance can get expensive on the open market - employers help to offset that cost by covering as much as 80% of the overall premium. If they offer 401k retirement with a percentage match, this is additional free money you can earn while saving.

Look at whether they offer travel reimbursement. Depending on where your assignment is located, traveling to your assignment can get expensive. Some assignments offer a completion bonus, where when you complete your assignment, you earn a small bonus.

Overall, when looking for travel nursing or allied health assignments, the hourly rate is not the only thing you should be paying attention to. You need to look at your compensation package as a whole, instead of focusing on the hourly rate.

So next time, estimate your total expected take-home pay by including overtime hours, bonuses, reimbursements, and tax-free stipends.

Compare your pay package to any other offers or past assignments.

You may find that your low hourly rate doesn’t equal a lower overall compensation when you factor everything in.

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