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The Guide for New Travel Nurses

The Guide for New Travel Nurses

What is a Travel Nurse?

It is important to know that this definition could get lengthy because we want to make sure that you have the complete story of Travel Nursing.  There are several elements to this definition of Travel Nurse, which include;

  • A Registered Nurse
  • Works for a Healthcare Staffing Agency
  • Works on a Contract basis
  • Works at a hospitals and other healthcare providers
  • Works around the country periodically
  • Works in locations that are away from their home

A Registered Nurse – The term “travel nurse” most commonly refers to a Registered Nurse (RN).  In addition, the industry has other travelers like LPN’s (Licensed Practical Nurses), CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistance), NP’s (Nurse Practitioners) and even the allied field includes travel therapists and travel techs.  Physicians who engage in this type of work are commonly referred to as “locum tenens.” Moreover, there are many different types of “nurses”.   For the purpose of this article we are going to limit our conversation to the Travel Nurse (RN).

Healthcare Staffing Agency – Although there is a small fraction of travel nurses that work as an independent contractor (less than 4%), a vast majority (over 96%) of travel nurses work through a healthcare staffing agency.  The main reason for the low number of independent contractors, the IRS is stringent on what qualifies an independent contractor and because the relationship between the hospital they don’t typically qualify, the IRS levies heavy fines and penalties.

Determining the best Healthcare Staffing Agency for you can make or break your travel experience.  There are a lot of factors to consider when making your choice.  We cover that in our Article How to Choose the Right Travel Nursing Agency.

Contract – The temporary contract is the next element to be familiar with regarding Travel Nursing.  The contracts range from a typical 13-week contract up to 26 weeks.  Note, it is very rare to see contracts over 26 weeks.  The contract is usually memorialized in an offer letter from the agency.  It is important that you are clear on the details of the contract specifically end date.  When a contract is complete, the travel nurse travels to the next location and new contract.  In some circumstance the contract will extend, at which point the travel nurse will stay at their current facility.  The good recruiters and agencies will be in conversation with you throughout your contract including where next or extension.

Hospitals and other healthcare providers – This is fairly straightforward.  Hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country utilize the services of travel nurses.  The main reasons; they have a demand based on a permanent staff member taking a leave, number of patients increase, the hospital/provider is expanding, or there is a shortage of nurses in the area.

It is important for you to understand the facility in which you will be traveling to.  Things to consider in making a determination; bed ratio, rural vs city, patient to nurse ration, size of hospital, and location.  There are many factors to consider.  For more information read our article on “Types of Healthcare Providers”

Movement & Residence – Most travel nurses move around however it is important to maintain a permanent residence that is not in the same metropolitan area.  This is important to stay compliant with the IRS.  The standard rule is that the travel nurse cannot work in the same metropolitan area for more than 12 months in any rolling 24-month period.  The IRS does not call out a specific distance that the traveler must live from their legal home.  The IRS uses a separate term for people who move from place to place for work but do not have a permanent home. They refer to them as “itinerant workers”.  The IRS has specific rules around taxation for this classification and most Healthcare Staffing Agencies will not work with them.  Learn more about tax implications in our articles.  Important to note, most hospital systems will require a traveler to be at least 50 to 70 miles away from their legal home.  In the case the traveler is within the hospitals requirement they will deem it a “Local Contract”.  The rate of pay is typically lower than that of a traveler.

Travel Nursing Pay Packages – Due to the IRS regulations impacting travel nurses pay most healthcare staffing agencies are going to offer a wide range of taxable and non-taxable compensation.  The taxable compensation will be in the form of a base salary and bonuses.  The non-taxable compensation is in the form of stipends (meal/temporary living, etc.)  Some agencies will combine these together and call is a blended rate.  In the past, a recruiter for the healthcare staffing agency would handle your housing, but many travel nurses are now electing to take the housing stipend so they can have more control over where they stay. If you’ve ever been stuck in sub­par housing for 13 weeks, you know this! Also, since you can pocket the remaining tax-free stipend dollars, most travel RN’s are realizing the importance of taking a larger role in choosing their housing.    Please refer to our article on Travel Nursing Pay Packages for more information.

Fusion HCR Healthcare Travel Nursing
We hope this helps give some insights into travel nursing.  If you are interested in learning more or have questions about travel nursing please call us at 937-572-7902.  We are happy to help.

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