An experienced travel nurse never assumes every contract is “standard.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A good contract lays it all out: Terms, bonuses, living arrangements, sick days…the things that will define your work and life for the next few months.
Questions to ask when negotiating your travel nurse contract
An experienced recruiter will help you hammer out the details, but never be afraid to speak up and try to amend the contract to get a better deal. Before you sign off on the changes, though, make sure the recruiter or company representative has the authority to make changes. Some potential changes and amendments may be part of the original contract; adjustments the company allows without question. Other things may not be clear, and this is where you need to ask the right questions and advocate on your own behalf.
Questions about hours, shifts, and start/end dates
Ask questions, lots of them.
- Some contracts mention tax advantages, and you need to know exactly what that means.
- Ask about the hourly obligation. How many hours/shifts are you expected to perform. If you get sick, what happens? Will you be allowed to work extra hours or off days to make up the hours? If not, will the missed days be added to the end of the contract? How will a missed day impact your bonus?
- What happens if the facility itself cancels a shift? Hospitals in a financial crunch may try to save money by reducing personnel. Make sure you know how many hours you are guaranteed.
- Make sure the start and end dates of the contract are clearly spelled out.
- What if the assignment is canceled after you arrive and settle in, but before you start work? Are your expenses reimbursed?
Questions regarding your travel nurse pay rate
- The rate of pay should be clearly spelled out in the contract, including overtime, on-call rates, and bonuses (and bonus requirements).
- Determine the method of payment. Is it weekly? Direct deposit or payroll check?
- How will you track your hours? Does the facility have a time tracking system, or will you keep a time
- If something is wrong with your pay, who do you contact to fix it?
Questions about housing
Each contract may be vastly different. Before you sign:
- Make sure you know where you’re going to live. Google the neighborhood. Find out what the area is like, including available transportation, crime rate, amenities, weather, restaurants, and entertainment.
- How many bedrooms will your apartment have?
- Will you have to share?
- Can you bring your pet (if you have one)? If so, is there a pet deposit?
- How far is the hospital?
- What if you hate it? What are the relocation options?
Should you extend your travel nursing contract?
It is getting close to the end of your 13-week contract and you are considering your options. Some nurse travelers take a few travel assignments until they land a permanent position. Other nurses just want to try traveling for one assignment or take one travel assignment after another. But you may also have the option of extending your current travel assignment.
The pros and cons of extending your contract
Nurse travelers are needed for a variety of reasons. For example, the patient population may increase during certain times of the year and extra staff members are needed when the census goes up. In other instances, there may be a chronic shortage of nurses in an area, and travelers help fill that void.
Although it can vary, many travel assignments last for 13 weeks. But what happens after your contract is up? It depends on the situation and reason the facility needed to hire a traveler. In some cases, you may have the option of working beyond your original contract.
There can be several benefits to extending your contract. One of the biggest reasons to stay at your current location is you already have found your groove. You may be making friends and settling in. By the time your 13 weeks is up, you are probably very familiar with your facility’s protocols, charting system, and policies. It is easier to stay somewhere you are used to then move on and start again.
Extending your contact is an opportunity to stay in a facility you have become comfortable with. It also allows you the chance to become more familiar with the area you are living in. If you enjoy your current location, extending your contract can be a great experience.
On the flip side, you probably took a travel assignment to experience new facilities and new parts of the country. If you stay put at your current assignment, you may be defeating the purpose of working as a healthcare traveler.
Considerations for travel nurse contract renewals
If you do decide you are having fun at your current location and have the chance to extend your contract, there are a few factors to consider.
- Contract time frames may be flexible. Not all facilities need you to renew for the same length as your original contract. For instance, if your original contract was 13 weeks, your extension may only be six or eight weeks. The facility may only offer a certain number of weeks. In other cases, you may be in a position to negotiate how long you are willing to stay.
- You may not be offered the same pay rate. If you were hired due to a crisis situation at a facility, such as a strike, you may not be offered the same rate when you renew your contract. The facility may still need staff, but the crisis may have passed, which can lower rates offered.
- Know the nursing market. If you want to stay in the same area, determine if there is a demand for nurses. You may be able to get a better contract in another facility close by if there is a shortage of nurses.
This is a short list of questions…but you get the idea. You need to know where you’re going and what you’ll find when you get there. The travel nursing contract is the most important thing in your life. Make sure you know exactly what’s in it before signing on the dotted line, and keep a copy handy too.