Understanding your travel nurse contract can be complex and confusing. They incorporate many different variables that are not traditionally common with staffing compensation packages. Listed in this article is a general overview of an agencies pay package and compensation breakdown.
YOUR RECRUITER DISCUSSION VERSUS YOUR CONTRACT
The discussion with your travel agency recruiter should be shown in your travel nurse contract. Like in nursing if it isn’t documented then it didn’t happen. It’s important to read your contract thoroughly and carefully to confirm the information you both discussed is present in the contract.
In my experience, after I have a discussion with my recruiter, I forward an email regarding our discussion to confirm its validity. Once my recruiter answers the email, I have documentation showing our discussion regarding compensation, time off, and/or any other pertinent information we discussed. I have been fortunate to have amazing recruiters for my assignments with no issues; however, not every nurse has been so lucky.
TRAVEL NURSE CONTRACT ELEMENTS
There are common elements to every contract that rarely change. These elements are:
Assignment Start Date: This is the week the travel nurse assignment begins. Usually, this date is listed as the first Sunday before orientation week even if your first official start date is different. This means your assignment start date is listed as the first Sunday of the contract; however, orientation may not begin until Monday or Tuesday.
Assignment End Date: This is the week the travel nurse assignment ends. Usually, this date is listed as the Saturday of your last contract week even if your official final day is different.
Please Note: This does not correlate with contract extensions as a new contract would be initiated upon agreement of an extension.
Contract Term: This is the amount of time you are contracted to work at the facility. This can be listed by either days, weeks, or years.
Contract Shift: The is the shift the facility has contracted you for during your assignment. This can be day shift (6a-6p, 7a-7p), night shift (6p-6a, 7p-7a), mid shift (9a-9p, 11a-11p), 1p-1a,3p-3a), or variable shifts (switching between two shifts such as day shift and night shift).
Approved Time Off: This is the specific days or weeks you requested off during your discussion with your recruiter and during your interview with the facility. If the facility agrees to provide you with these days off, the days will be written into your contract. If your days off are approved and not written into your contract, do not sign the contract until it is revised.
Unit: This is the unit in which you are assigned to work during your contract. As with any contract, the unit is at liberty to float you to different floors depending on the need of the facility. However, it is important to review your contract regarding which unit you are assigned for accuracy.
TRAVEL NURSE HOURS AND CANCELLATION POLICIES
Required Hours: This is the number of hours you are required to work per week. These hours can range from 24 to 48 hours a week or more.
Guaranteed Hours: This is the number of hours you are guaranteed per week within the contract period. Guaranteed hour contracts are preferred amongst the industry. Not all contracts have guaranteed hours. However, even if the contract has guaranteed hours, there is an allowance the hospital may be allowed to call you off during your contract without having to pay for your services.
Cancellation Policy: This is the shift cancellation policy for the facility. This means the facility can cancel the traveler’s shifts over a defined period of time. For example, a facility may have a cancellation policy of one shift every two weeks. However, many times the facility may not cancel your shifts but once a month or two depending on the census and needs. This makes these contracts very “-ify” with travelers. Guaranteed hour contracts are still preferred for this reason.
TRAVEL NURSE CONTRACT COMPENSATION
Alright! Now it’s time to get to the important stuff. How do we comprehend nursing pay? Well here is the breakdown:
Base Hourly Rate: This is the initial compensation rate you receive in exchange for hours worked. For example, $20/hour for 36 hours = $720 (taxable). This rate is usually taxable under the IRS.
On Call Hourly Rate: This is the hourly rate you receive if you are placed on call with the facility. This typically effects OR and Cath Lab nurses more often than other departments. Rates are typically lower than base hourly rates and can range from $3 per hour to $10 per hour.
Per Diem: This is the daily or weekly rate you receive for Meals & Incidentals. This compensation covers daily cost of food and other incidentals. This rate is tax free if you meet certain guidelines. Please consult a tax professional regarding these guidelines.
Gross versus Net Pay: This is the amount of money you are paid before taxes versus how much you take home. The net pay is how much money you receive minus taxes, insurance, and any other deductions. It is important to communicate with your recruiter to discuss the difference when you are quoted for a potential position.
TRAVEL NURSE HOUSING AND TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT
Housing Type/Allowance: This outlines the type of housing you opted for and the allowance you receive based on that decision. If you choose to find your own housing, the housing type will be listed as a subsidy. If you choose to have your agency find you housing, the housing type will be listed as agency placed. The housing amount will usually be quoted in a monthly rate and a prorated amount will be distributed in each paycheck. This rate is tax-free based on housing costs.
Travel Reimbursement: This is the amount the agency will reimburse you for travel expenses. This amount (if offered) will be distributed by paying half on your first pay check and half on your last paycheck for the contract. Consult your travel agency regarding their guidelines for travel reimbursement.
OTHER IMPORTANT TRAVEL NURSE CONTRACT ESSENTIALS
Tax Home: This is a home where you return to regularly and incur recurring expenses. Strong legal and historical ties must be evident by any of the following: driver’s license, voter registration, car registration, mail delivery, and outside expenses such as banking. This can apply to either a mortgage, apartment, or home share (renting with a roommate).
Missed Hours Penalty: This is the amount you pay back for any missed working hours. If you call off a shift, you will not receive a portion of your per diem and housing allowance. Some contracts may offer a re-earned clause allowing you to be re-compensated for missed hours if you pick up additional shifts during your contract.
Health Benefit Allowance: Some agencies provide health insurance benefits to the employee and family if applicable. If you need insurance benefits, it’s important to review this section of your contract as well as applicable documents provided by the travel agency.
Scheduling: This happens to be one of the most important essentials to nurses when it comes to travel assignments. This will not necessarily show up in your travel contract; however, it is important to recognize whether the facility offers either self-scheduling or if you have any control of your schedule.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE GETTING THE BEST PAY PACKAGE?
It is difficult to know if you are receiving the best pay package for any position currently on the market. Many times, travelers will consult with several travel recruitment companies to receive quotes on the same position. Other times, travelers will join support groups on Facebook or Twitter to discuss if the pay packages are competitive in their chosen state. Whatever route you choose, it’s important to do your own independent research.
Here a helpful link for your own research
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm