New to travel nursing!

  1. Hi,

    I am considering travel nursing for the next couple of years. My search has elicited feelings akin to the paranoia of buying a used car. I am unfamiliar with the language. I can't decide when something sounds like a good deal. I don't know where my expectations should be.

    I have talked to some travelers on my unit, and a dark shadow casts over their eyes when talking about negotiating with recruiters. Many of them say I should demand (firmly request?) a minimum weekly after-tax salary and to always negotiate the offered housing stipend.

    I guess some specific questions I have are:

    Will pay vary based on location and unit?
    How does the pay work? Can I receive a housing stipend and travel reimbursement?
    Is your housing stipend separate from your hourly rate?
    Is it standard to be reimbursed for your new state license?
    Is it standard to be reimbursed for certifications?
    Can I request that I not be canceled in my contract?
    What should I look for in a contract?

    Background on my traveling dreams:

    I looking to travel because I am moving to an area with limited NICU opportunities (I am a NICU nurse). I am hoping to work within an area that would allow me to drive home once a week. I would be looking for jobs that would allow me to work my days in a stretch. Please let me know how my dream compares to traveling reality.

    ANY pieces of advise/ suggestions are warmly welcomed!
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    About advor

    Joined: Nov '10; Posts: 17; Likes: 12


  3. by   NedRN
    I could write thousands of words about each question, but there are easier options, for both of us. You could buy any of half a dozen books on travel nursing, or spend some serious time reading traveler forums (reading between the lines) or specialty sites such as PanTravelers, TravelTax, or Gypsy Nurse to get some background or excruciating detail. Even agency sites often have some decent content and usually explain the basics. Responses here will vary dramatically and will give you either too much detail (rare except for me perhaps), or much more commonly, too little for what you wanted.

    What I would recommend is the old fashioned way to collect information, calling lots of agencies. This will take a lot of time but will solve several problems at once. Ask every question you have here, every issue you have heard about, and even questions that will rise in your mind after each conversation. You will find many different answers that you will have to collate and filter to get to the real truth about traveling (truth is very personal by the way, which is why no one can just hand it to you). Take notes, especially of how well each recruiter communicates with you and how well you get along with him/her. Picking the best recruiter is perhaps the most important variable in your success, more important than the agency. Pick the best five to work with later when you are really ready.

    Try not to pick any of the many "facts" or issues with travel nursing a make or break thing, whether it is pay, or contract items you don't like. Rather, go for completing a first successful assignment. At the end of that, you will be not only more marketable, but you will actually have a much better idea of what is really important to you and can adjust your expectations and needs accordingly going forward.

    I'll try to answer one question (which can be answered better by real agencies) is working close to home. If you live near major cities, this might be possible. You may not even need to be a traveler, just get a staff job with stacked shifts. Some hospital units self schedule longer periods such as 6 weeks (like my first and only staff position). Do 18 days and potentially have 9 weeks off. I've worked "close" to home only once, about a two and a half hour drive. That was still too far, and I think I may have gone home twice in 13 weeks. If you go the travel route, limiting your geographical area will impact your fun, assignment availability, and compensation.

    Good luck!
  4. by   SCRN01
    It sounds to me like you are trying to learn too much about things you won't know until you just do it. Nothing wrong with being prepared and asking questions. There is a lot to take in. But just like buying a used car, you'll only be able to find out so much information before you just have to pull the trigger and make a decision. You'll learn as you go just like the rest of us. You can't be too demanding on your first assignment anyway. And I agree that traveling might not be an option if you need to stay that close to home unless you are near bigger cities. Sometimes it can be hard to find a job in one state! Narrowing it down to a 100 or even 300 mile radius could prove to be challenging. What about per diem?
  5. by   advor
    Thank you for your replies! I am beginning to see I might have to loosen my white knuckles a bit if I am going to have a go at this!

    I've been reading some forums here and have been in contact with several recruiters. Each conversation has been different, some more informative than others. Some recruiters get irritated when I don't jump on assignments, I guess I should take this as a bad sign.

    I have been going about this the wrong way. I approached recruiters as though I were on an interview and was nervous to seem too eager for basic information, like pay, insurance or license reimbursement. I was also hesitant to say that I was talking to multiple agencies. From what I've read, the best practice is to be honest and to procure the information I need from the conversations.

    I was able to talk to a couple different recruiters about the same assignment. I thought this would allow me to compare apples to apples, and yet one of those apples ended up looking strangely like an orange. The base pay was $8/hour different and the ever elusive "tax-free" daily stipend differed more than 80 dollars a day, bringing one company's offer to over $300/ week more. I don't understand how that could be possible for the same contract? There are a few differences I like day-one insurance, cancellation policies and overtime pay, but nothing that I could see to account for such a large difference.

    I know that it might be difficult to stay in the area I want to be in. I am a NICU nurse, and I know that makes it more difficult, but for personal reasons, it would work best. Within my "radar" are some decent sized cities like DC, Baltimore, Columbus and Pittsburgh. I'm fairly determined to at least try. I have not considered per diem work, but I will look into it. Any tips for starting there?

    The more I learn about traveling, the more overwhelmed I become, but I know these feelings are normal with trying anything new. My anxiety level is heightened because I'm dealing with my livelihood