Travel Nursing: Housing, Travel, and Transportation
When you accept your travel nursing assignment, you’ll have to establish your housing, transportation, and travel needs. If you decide to find your own housing, you’re in for a real project. You’ll need to figure out where you want to live, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll be doing there.
When looking to find a home for your travel nursing assignment, there are many things to consider.
- Proximity to the job. You’ll run into a lot of homes and condos that are available to rent or lease. The first question that arises is: how long and far are you willing to drive? If you wish to stay closer to the facility, you’re going to limit yourself. And that’s fine.
- Proximity to activities. If you accepted a travel nursing contract in a location you want to explore, this might be a deciding factor for you. Did you accept the contract because you also wanted a mini-vacation? Then you should be okay with driving a greater distance to work. It will expand your options. Live by the beach if you want to try water activities, or near a major city to enjoy its museums and nightlife.
- Cost. This will be the major factor in your decision on where to live. Do a cost analysis to make sure the place you want to stay is within your budget. Your goal as a travel nurse is to not only enjoy the assignment but also make money. Make sure you can both save and enjoy your hobbies. Remember to check whether the lease covers utilities.
- Necessities. You also have to think about your necessities. What are the things you must have? For example, when we took on a travel nursing contract, we needed either a pool or a hot tub. Maybe you want to be near a specific park, stadium, or peer.
It’s accurate to say that since you’re taking on a travel nursing contract, you’re either into traveling or you want to make more money. It’s always beneficial to get an idea of what you want to do or visit. You may only be in that area for the duration of your contract, and you may never return. You want to make the best of your travels. The quickest way to learn about a city is to look it up and discover the most popular places to visit. From there, you can meet locals and learn what they enjoy doing in that city. Your coworkers will be a great resource. They’ll know where everything is, the best places to get brunch, the trails with the highest points, where to see a waterfall, and which parks are the best. What finds it helpful to devote one day a week to an activity. You should also make a schedule for when to do activities, as well as a list of the activities you want to do.
Now you need to consider how you’re going to get to the place you’ll be living in. You have two options.
- Drive your car. This is the least costly method. Consider how long your drive will be and how much you’ll pay for gas. You also need to consider all the miles you’ll be putting on your car if you travel far away. The other key point about driving is that you won’t be able to pack as many things, because you can only pack so much in your car. This is a great choice for someone who packs light and enjoys road trips.
- Ship your car and fly. This is a good idea when you don’t like being in a car for long periods of time. This option will also cost much more than driving. Shipping a car can cost over a thousand dollars, depending on the season. We recommend looking at different transportation companies and comparing their rates. Plane tickets can also be expensive, so shop around for a good price. This is the more comfortable route to with. When flying, you’re also going to be able to bring luggage with you – but remember, that costs too.
As a travel nurse, there are a lot of things to consider in terms of housing, travel, and transportation. Travel nursing takes preparation and planning. Make sure you devote sufficient time to research and communication so you’re satisfied with your decisions.
Travel nursing contract negotiation
The most important part of travel nursing
In travel nursing, contract negotiation is important, as it will determine the amount you get paid. Fight for yourself in these contract negotiations. You know your self-worth. The goal you should have in mind is a win-win situation for both the recruiter and you.
Nursing recruiters want to make a good commission, as the travel company has metrics in place to help them maintain their profit margins. But you’ll have some wiggle room. It depends on the situation. For example, see if they can provide higher compensation for a crisis assignment.
How is your money made in travel nursing?
So business is transacted between the hospital and the travel agency. All your compensation, benefits, and reimbursements will come from the Bill Rate. The bill rate is the amount the hospital pays the travel agency based on the hours worked by each contracted nurse.
Bill Rate: $100/hr
Nurse pay rate: $50/hr (company profit 50%)
This is generally corporately mandated and covers such things as the company executives, employee salary/benefits, and a defined profit margin that the company specifies. Let’s break down the components of the travel nursing contract negotiation:
6 components of Travel Nurse Contract Negotiations
We are rating these from the highest in importance to the lowest. Each plays a role in creating the best contract for you:
- Travel Reimbursement
- Licensing Reimbursement
Everyone should have a number in mind for this when negotiating, even in sales. This will also affect how much you’ll be taxed. You already know Uncle Sam loves your money. You should care less about reimbursements for travel and a higher hourly rate. You can generally cover extra costs from your weekly net pay and year-end tax benefits. Try to ask your recruiter for the lowest base pay possible, as this will be the taxed portion of your pay.
This is the untaxed part of your pay and it is where the money is made. Stipends are broken down into money for housing and food, known as a “per diem”. Since you are an employee working for a short time in another location for the company, tax-free benefits are given to you as compensation.
The IRS has developed an allowable per diem amount for each area of the country. This is the maximum allowable for meals, lodging, and expenses. For more information, visit the GSA.
Most of your stipends will be spent on housing. There are two ways to figure out the housing situation when it comes to travel nursing. The company can provide housing for you, they might take your stipend, or you can receive your stipend and arrange housing on your own. We prefer to find housing ourselves. If you can manage the extra responsibility, you may be able to make more money at the end of your contract by pocketing that extra housing money.
Sometimes, this is a huge deciding factor. If you want to be close to the ocean or a particular neighborhood, you might want to consider whether good housing is available in the contract location.
How important this is will depend on the lifestyle you choose as a travel nurse. If you just want to work your 36 hours and enjoy exploring your world, overtime won’t matter much. If you want to return to school and need some extra cash, this is an important negotiating point. From a business standpoint, any hours worked over and above the signed contract are simply a benefit (revenue) for the travel nurse agency. The standard overtime offered by some companies is time and half of your hourly rate. Try to negotiate a higher overtime rate. If they don’t give in, remind them that working overtime benefits both you and the travel company.
The entire trip to your travel nursing contract will not be covered. If you do receive a travel reimbursement, it will be a non-taxable income. I prefer not to have a travel reimbursement and just negotiate higher pay/stipends, as that will generate more money over the course of 13 weeks(+). The most common form is typically a flat-rate reimbursement involving travel to and from your contract. This can range anywhere from $250-500.
If you applied for a multi-license to travel to multiple locations, your agency will offer to pay those costs. Depending on the state, some costs can be costly. Ask your agency to reimburse you for all costs regarding licensing.
The decision-making process
You must understand your travel nursing contract. Remember, this is only a temporary job, so if you don’t think like things mid-contract, in 13 weeks you can renegotiate. Is this contract everything you wanted? Write down a list of pros and cons and make your decision. You might feel immense pressure – but with any big life event, change feels uncomfortable at first.
Review the written contract carefully, ask your recruiter for any contracts they might have. If you voiced concerns verbally and agreed to them, make sure they’re outlined on the contract. Once you sign the contract, there’s no going back. You will be held accountable to the terms of the contract. No matter how small the issue, if it’s something important to you, make certain it’s written into the contract.
A checklist of items to review before signing your travel nursing contract:
- Contract start and end dates
- An hourly base rate, holiday pay, overtime rates
- Guaranteed hours (36,48)
- Stipends (per diem)
- Cancellation allowed by hospital
- Penalties for call-offs (sickness)
- On-call requirements
- Travel reimbursement
- Floating policy
- Requested days off
Once the contract is negotiated and everything looks good, you’re ready to sign and begin your travel nursing experience. Best of luck!
Travel Nursing: How to Pack
When you’ve finally agreed to and signed your contract, you’re ready to physically move. There is a misconception about how hard it is to pack for your travel nursing assignment. Packing for your assignment is not a small task, since you’ll be moving the majority of your things with you.
What You Need to Bring
Travel Nurse Packing List
The first thing you need to do after signing your travel nursing contract is to create a list of things you need to pack. Here’s what to consider:
- Clothing and shoes
- Uniforms, work bag, work shoes
- Paperwork & portfolio
- Personal Care & luxury items
- First Aid & Medical items
For your travel nursing assignment, you’re going to need to create a portfolio of all your identification. If you don’t do this, it may be difficult to access them from a distance. These items include:
- Your birth certificate
- Social Security Card
- Insurance cards (auto, life, home, etc.)
- Passport (if applicable)
- Work Visa (if applicable)
- Health Information/prescriptions
When you’re packing for your travel nursing assignment, you will need the majority of your clothes, if not all. Imagine packing for a week-long vacation. Packing up for your travel nursing assignment is 4 times that amount. Here’s what to keep in mind before you pack:
- What climate are you going into? Make sure you look into the weather forecast for the location of your travel nursing assignment. You need to bring clothes that suit the weather. Chicago’s weather can fluctuate from 68 – 92 degrees during the warm months, and winters can fluctuate from 10 – -40 degrees. You need to know what climate you’re going to be in to have a good travel nursing experience.
- How many clothes are you going to take? You don’t realize how much clothing you have until you have to pack it all up. Take luggage with you on the plane or fill up your car with clothes. The best way to pack up your clothes is to use large bins that will fit in your car.
Houseware and Electronics
You can choose to live in a fully furnished place so you won’t need to transport the majority of your kitchen. If your abode isn’t furnished, take only the housewares you need, along with your favorite and most-used accessories. For example, few places have a crockpot.
Electronics are our most-used accessories. If you have a desktop computer, you’ll need to figure out how will it fit in your car. Laptops are always good because they enable you to work while you travel. You’ll also need your cellphone, chargers, Alexa, PS4, Xbox, HDMI cable(s), hairdryer, hair iron, and their cords.
Hobbies & Activities
Packing all your hobbies and activities for travel nursing will require some of your biggest cuts. Travel nursing is great, and you’ll find yourself doing a lot of new things. You may have to sacrifice your golfing equipment for the tennis rackets, and you might not be able to take your kayak or bike. The good thing is that you might be trying out new activities, especially if you’re moving to a different part of the US. The amount of stuff you take will depend on the size of your car and how much you can fit in it
Personal and Luxury Items
Remember, you’re also packing for you! Make sure you take things you really enjoy, such as your favorite purses, dresses, blanket, pillow, etc… But keep in mind that there’s a limit on how much you can transport.
Once you’ve packed it all up, there’s one more step before you can take on your travel nursing assignment. Go through your list one more time and make sure you took everything you’ll need. Remember to evaluate how well you packed when you reached your destination. Create a note of things you forgot and a list of things you rarely used. This way, you’ll be better prepared for your next contract.
The Travel Nurse-Recruiter Relationship
Your travel nursing recruiter is the middleman between your facility and you. The relationship you create with your travel recruiter will make or break your travel nursing experience. Imagine having a recruiter that’s not on top of it or not picking up the phone. This only creates frustration and stress on top of an already exhausting shift.
Interviewing your recruiter
Yes, you will interview your recruiter! You have every right to choose who you work with. During this time, it’s important to address any questions you have about the company or the recruiter. If you’re organized, you want your recruiter to be just as accountable so you don’t run into any frustration.
Questions to ask your travel recruiter
- What’s the history of the company (how long in business, how many office locations)?
- How long has the recruiter been with the company?
- How many nurses do you typically work with at once?
- Describe yourself and who you are
- Name some cities where you have assignments.
- What assignments do you have that travelers seem to like the most, and why?
- Do you submit nurses to assignments without permission?
Things to look for in a recruiter
- Honesty is the best policy. You don’t want the recruiter to make false promises and be disappointed during your contract. It’s a good sign when your recruiter says, “I don’t have the answer for that, but let me find out and get back to you.”
- During your contract, if there are issues (no matter how small), be sure to touch base with the recruiter and inform them
- If your travel nurse recruiter goes above and beyond for you, cherish them. An awesome recruiter will have your back, no matter what. They may not be able to fix everything, but they’ll try their best.
Respect for your time
- A recruiter should respond to you in a timely manner. Some will provide their personal cell number for quicker access. You decide the relationship and what type of contract works best for you. You shouldn’t have to wait for a response for longer than 48 hours.
An interest in you
- Your travel nurse recruiter should get to know you as a person and understand your life. They should know your passions and vice versa. Those are the recruiters that truly care. It’s not all about business.
Building and maintaining a solid relationship with your travel nurse recruiter is an important aspect of your professional career. Your travel nurse-recruiter relationship is key to your travel nursing experience. Having someone who is a great communicator, honest, organized, and interested in your career will be key to your experience.
Building Your Travel Nursing Portfolio
How can you impress your recruiter and move to the front of the line for your next travel nurse portfolio? Here’s a hint: it’s all about building out your travel nurse portfolio.
For those with a love of healthcare, helping people, and exploring new places, a career as a travel nurse could be a perfect mix of purpose and adventure.
If you’ve successfully become a nurse and have at least 1 year of experience in your specialty, you have a chance to jump on this unique opportunity.
Travel nurse paperwork
Keeping track of paperwork is very important in the travel nursing process. After completing three contracts and filing paperwork to different agencies, building your portfolio and keeping up with paperwork can become a burden down the line.
In travel nursing, paperwork is often overlooked, which is why being well-prepared and organized can put you one step ahead, especially when you’re on the road and need access to your paperwork at the last minute. We recommend scanning/uploading all your paperwork in PDF formats and saving it on apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Office 365. Once you have those documents, finding information will be a breeze.
Checklist: Travel Nurse Paperwork
Have your cover letter and resume ready. Tailor it to the institution you’re applying to and date to the time of the interview. We recommend Resume RX for resume courses and templates. Your application process will be easier with your recruiter, as they can pull most of the important information off the resume.
Copies of documents
- Certificates (BLS, ACLS, PALS, CCRN, ACRN, TNCC, etc.)
- Any other nursing certifications, like NIHSS
- Driver’s License (for I-9 verification)
- Social Security Card or Passport (for I-9 verification)
- Insurance cards (for auto, health, home, etc.)
- Copies of contracts, leases, and transport information
- Two letters of recommendation
- Tax records (keep IRS happy)
Proof of immunization
- Hep B
- Influenza (or letter of declination)
- TB skin test or Chest X-ray
Visit your family practice office and obtain your past immunization records. Save that document for the future. Some facilities ask for boosters and titers, so it’s nice to have dates on hand to fill out.
You’ll need the results of an annual physical exam conducted within the previous year to show you’re fit for work. (If this is not available, your travel nursing agency will set up an appointment for a physical paid by them.) This will also include a drug screening for every new contract you sign with a facility.
Before you apply to your first position, you’ll need to fill out a skills checklist for any specialty you work in. This will be filled out online through your agency. The caveat is that you’ll need to fill out one of these checklists for every agency you want to work for.
Organizing your travel nurse paperwork
Once you’ve completed the checklist above and have all your paperwork, the next step is to organize. Use a binder or an online cloud service like Google Drive.
Buy a binder with some color tabs and sheet protectors. Organize your binder based on the checklist points. If you’re color-coordinated, use colored folder dividers to make it easier to find what you need.
Online cloud storage
This is the way we prefer to store our travel nurse paperwork. We use Google Drive. Storing your stuff in the cloud means you’ll always have digital copies of your paperwork accessible via your smartphone. Trust me, there are times when your recruiter or facility will need paperwork, like a copy of your ACLS certificate. You can easily locate the PDF and email it directly to them using your phone. Google Drive is a lifesaver!
Just to recap, this checklist business may sound like a lot of work. Yes, it takes a lot of up-front work to get it all organized. But once this is done, it’ll save you time! And time is the world’s most limited resource. Why not buy more of it by getting your travel nurse portfolio ready?