New Traveler Expected Higher Pay

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am a new travel nurse. How do I know whether or not I am getting a good deal on my contract? I thought travel nursing would pay much more than this, but maybe I am missing the bigger picture trying to figure out how to factor in the stipends.

    Dear New Travel Nurse,

    In travel nursing, a good portion of the salary paid by the hospital goes to the middleman (agency).
    Pay varies depending on the market rate and location, and pay packages are complicated.

    Stipends
    Then there's the stipends. Your housing stipend is the largest stipend, and stipends are tax free. That's a good thing, unless you are are qualifying for a house loan, and need to show a higher taxable income.

    If you can find housing for less than your stipend amount, you can pocket the cash difference. Sometimes you can find month to month apartment leases, or extended stay hotels. Many travelers opt for the stipend as opposed to company housing, as they can make their own arrangements for less. Just remember there's a hassle factor when finding your own living arrangements, and a convenience factor with company housing.

    Some agencies offer the option of a larger stipend, resulting in a lower taxable wage, or a smaller stipend with a higher taxable wage. To the company, it's all the same amount of money they are putting out. When faced with options, you have to consider how much you'll be taxed as part of the math.

    There's also meals and incidentals stipends, and travel stipends. It's easy to get lost in the lingo. To compare your travel pay with that of another nurse or agency, you have to itemize the different stipends using the same language.

    Questions to Ask
    Recruiters don't always spell out the details and nuances of the contract. Here's some questions to ask:

    Are shifts guaranteed?
    Is overtime paid after 8 hours (ex, in CA)? Typically the hourly wage is lower in this case, so the overtime pay comes out in the wash.
    What is the cancellation policy?

    Traveling can be financially rewarding for the educated traveler. The key is educated. It's like running your own business, and there are a whole new set of skills to learn. Join the travel nurse forum here on site and the Gypsy nurse on Facebook. Definitely go to PanTravelers on the internet to join a professional travel nurses association with tons of information for new and experienced travelers.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth

    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
    Last edit by Nurse Beth on Jul 24
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,519; Likes: 4,494


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