Finalize the contract before you head out
We explained in our post ‘Tips for Travel Nursing in 2021’ that you’ll be able to connect with an ideal employer (and perhaps a high paying contract) when you maintain more than one recruiter relationship. Of course, one caveat is that you stay honest about working with multiple agencies and have up-to-date documentation. Once you do find a contract, it’s best to review its details before co-signing it. Thoroughly vet your contract — a few things to note are your hourly rate, holiday and overtime wages, penalty if you cancel the contract early, and reimbursement if the hospital cancels your assignment. Having these details in writing, especially the reimbursement clause, can help you manage the expenses of traveling to a new location.
Verify how much you’re getting paid
It’s crucial for employers to be transparent about pay, especially when you have a specialization since you’re equipped with a diverse range of skills that enables you to work in specific cases or departments. Specialized travel nurses can perform responsibilities that traditionally require doctors such as diagnosing patients and creating prescriptions. That said, Sydney Lake explains that nurses' pay rates should correspond to their specialization. This means that the more training or certifications you have, the higher your rate should be. For example, geriatric nursing and critical care nursing are two of the nursing specialties listed by Maryville University that are currently in high demand. While geriatric nurses offer assistance for bedridden patients through home healthcare, critical care nurses often work on emergency cases or for recovering patients. Because these types of nurses are tasked to rehabilitate and care for patients with life-threatening conditions, their pay should match the level of support they deliver. Travel nursing can entail a lot of adjustments, both in and out of work. Verify your pay — and make sure it matches your skill set — so you can maximize the opportunity you’ve taken.
Take a test drive
Being efficient is important, particularly when you start your first assignment — first impressions mean a lot after all. To ensure there aren’t any surprises on your way to work, take a test drive a few days before. Set your alarm and practice your day as a travel nurse. Mimic the schedule you’ll have: leave your house at the right time, scope out commute schedules or possible parking spots if you’re driving, and determine how to get to your floor or department. In case there’s a snag during your test drive, make adjustments as necessary. This can mean waking up earlier to avoid traffic or getting to your workplace quicker if there are any briefings you need to attend as a first-time travel nurse.
Get your hours in writing
For travel nurses, guaranteed hours are essential. Having a set number of shifts means you aren’t a redundancy — because imagine heading out to another state only for your employer to use their own staff. This is why it’s best to have your hours written down. Travel nurses, specifically, need to do so to avoid under-compensation as on-call nurses. Fortunately, a New York Times post illustrates how travel nurses continue to be valued. For instance, in understaffed hospitals, these professionals are paid well so that after just a few weeks or months on the job, they can go back home and rest. Of course, adequate and fair compensation is only possible if you have a clear understanding of your hours, and if your contract includes a clause that every canceled shift is still entitled to payment.
Before navigating new work environments, first-time travel nurses need to clarify their contracts and compensation — doing so ensures you can make the most out of your work opportunity. We hope the above tips can usher you into a successful transition to travel nursing.
Joy Bailey is a freelance writer, and her aim is to shed light on the current trends of healthcare. When she isn't focused on her research, she enjoys leisurely walks at the park and experimenting with baked goods.