Contract or Agency nursing?


I was wondering do you have to work on a contract when you finish nursing school or can you go to an agency? And do agency nurses make more money?


196 Posts

Specializes in M/S, dialysis, home health, SNF. Has 25 years experience.

New nurses do neither contract nor agency right out of school. Agencies require at least one year of experience in the acute clinical setting before they will hire you. Agency (registry) nurses make more money, but get cancelled first - before hospital staff - and typically get no benefits.

Contracts are generally arranged through an agency/registry and are typically for 13 weeks at a time. These are usually agencies that hire travelers, who may go to another state to work for that period of time.

I have worked as a traveler (in the late '80s and early 90's. Today, the contracts have a lot more fine print and they often favor the company more than the traveler, so do be cautious and read the fine print.

I currently work registry. If you are not experienced, going to different hospitals with different paperwork, charting on different computer programs, or no programs at all, and never knowing if you're going to work that day or not until 5 am can be way more than a new grad can or should take on.

It's still excellent advice for a new grad to get a good solid year of med/surg experience, then specialize in one area if that's your goal.


196 Posts

Specializes in M/S, dialysis, home health, SNF. Has 25 years experience.

I need to correct myself. There are hospitals that offer new grads as well as experienced nurses contracts with a sign-on bonus to work for them. I don't know that it's mandatory.


14,633 Posts

There are some hospitals that offer sign-on bonuses (with a contract for a specific length of service to qualify for the bonus). You are certainly not required to take a sign-on bonus that a hospital may offer!

Be sure that you understand all the details of what you're agreeing to before you accept a sign-on bonus -- in nearly every case, it involves a legally binding contract, and I guarantee you that the conditions (for forfeiting and/or repaying the bonus, etc.) will benefit the facility more than they benefit you. Also, many hospitals that offer bonuses do so because working conditions at the facility are so bad that that's the only way they can get people to work for them -- by, essentially, bribing them. Think about it -- hospitals dont just give money away because they like to! (I should also say that's not always the case; sometimes good hospitals offer bonuses because demand in the area exceeds supply (too many hospitals, not enough nurses) and that's the only reason they have trouble attracting enough staff ...) The big chunk of $$$ looks v. appealing, esp. when you're just graduating from school, broke and probably in debt, but you don't want to find yourself trapped in a lousy working situation ... Please, for your own sake, be cautious about bonuses! :)

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