When it comes to travel nurse contracts, many components must be considered. These include float policy, housing, and travel reimbursement.
Agencies often pay nurses a tax-exempt housing stipend for each assignment if the hospital is far enough from their permanent home. This stipend is on top of the high hourly rate they earn.
One of the most common misconceptions about travel nursing is that nurses have to go it alone regarding health and benefits. However, a traveling nurse contract typically offers financial benefits such as significantly higher pay rates than permanent nursing positions, housing or additional stipends for housing, and often tax advantages related to travel expenses.
They are offered the same traditional health, vision and dental insurance as staff nurses. They also get the 401K benefits and other perks. These financial incentives, combined with the potential to work overtime and accumulate bonuses, can lead to substantial earnings for travel nurses while allowing them to explore new places and further their careers. Some travel agencies provide housing, usually in furnished apartments near the hospital.
Others allow nurses to choose their living quarters. Those who take the agency-provided option should remember that those apartments may be bare bones and are responsible for their utilities and services like cable.
Travel nurses are paid for their hours, so contracts vary in duration. In addition to the taxable hourly rate, there are other fixed expenses, such as travel stipends and mileage. Another variable is the state payroll taxes and burdens, which can cap out at different income levels.
Knowing this will help a travel nurse better understand their total gross pay. It will also enable them to compare contracts and negotiate more effectively.
The requirements section of a travel nurse contract contains a list of items that must be completed for the travel nurse to complete her assignment.
This may include mandatory vaccinations (like the flu or COVID-19), TB testing, N-95 fit tests, and other health requirements related to hospital policies. Some agencies will provide housing, while others will offer a stipend allowing the nurse to find her own.
Travel nurses need to understand what types of accommodation will be shown in the contracts they are considering. Agency-provided housing often includes furnished apartments with utilities included. The stipend is typically less than it would cost to rent an apartment in the area and can require nurses to pay for things like cable and internet.
Many contracts will specify the total number of contracted hours that the travel nurse must work. This can be a very helpful item to know for nurses to make comparisons between different jobs. It can also include the number of shifts that must be worked. Many states have laws that mandate hospitals to pay overtime after working more than 8 hours in a day, so knowing the number of scheduled hours can help nurses make informed decisions.
In addition to the required hours, travel nurse contracts usually specify who schedules the nurse. This is a key element for travel nurses to know because if the schedule is changed and the nurse does not work those new shifts, she will have to be paid extra. This can also protect the nurse if there are hospital cancelations.
Travel nurses have unique tax requirements that can make the pay package look different than it does for others.
For example, travel nurses usually get a high hourly rate and are offered a housing stipend. The stipend is often tax-free and is made up of money that the agency pays directly or allows the nurse to deduct from their income as expenses they incur while working away from home.
Travel nurses need to understand their tax situation and work with a qualified financial planner or CPA to ensure they are maximizing their benefits. Travel nurses also need to know their “tax home” rules and remember that the IRS requires them to establish a tax home in each state where they work, even if it is only for one year at a time.
Most travel nurse agencies offer lower taxable base rates and higher stipends to maximize their nurses’ take-home pay. This is because agency payroll taxes, which include FICA and federal income tax withholding, are based on the taxable base rate.
Many travel nurses use their assignments as stepping stones to permanent jobs. The contracts negotiated between the agency and the hospital can offer valuable networking opportunities for nurses looking to make a mark in their fields and gain a foothold into full-time employment.
Aside from being well-paid, traveling nursing can provide rewarding experiences and unique professional growth. Many nurses are also interested in the flexibility and freedom that the lifestyle offers, as they can travel to different locations and learn how healthcare systems differ from place to place. However, as more nurses take travel assignments, it could contribute to the ongoing nursing shortage.
Some hospitals report that the higher pay offered to travel nurses drives more full-time staff away from the facilities, making their remaining employees overworked. Regarding travel nurse compensation, many agencies pay a taxable base rate and then provide a housing stipend. The taxable base rate is the amount that is subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, so the more money an agency pays, the more FICA costs they incur.