Travel Nursing Questions

I recently received the following e-mail from a nursing school student with questions about travel nursing:

Hi Amy.

I *really* appreciate your blog. I have been looking for something like it for a while. Once I graduate, I am going to put in a year in the ER at one of the local hospitals. After that, I plan to jump straight into Travelling. So I have a question for you. When I see all those ads that say, "Make $XX,000 per year", or "$XX per hour", what do they really mean? Is this gross pay before benefits, or does it *include* benefits? For example: "Earn over $90,000 per year." Does that include the cost of benefits? And does that include planned overtime, or is that all straight pay? Same with the, "Earn up to $45 per hour." Gross pay? Or gross pay + housing costs + milage expenses + etc.? I know you are a busy person, and if you can't answer directly, that's okay. But hopefully you can at least blog an answer. I know there are others at my school that would love to have those answers, so I am sure there are many around the country that would too. Thanks for what you are doing!

[Name redacted]
Tacoma, WA

Let me see if I can answer most of the questions in this e-mail.

First, congratulations on your decision to go to nursing school. I didn't know when I decided to become a nurse almost two decades ago how much it would allow me to see the world. I'm sure you will find nursing much more flexible than most any other occupation you could have chosen.

Negotiate Your Package
Second, although each agency offers its own version of payments and benefits most of the packages are negotiable. For instance, you can choose to be paid hourly with or without benefits. If you choose not to have benefits you will receive a higher hourly rate of pay. If you choose to have the agency "provide" benefits then your rate of pay will be reduced. The same is true with the sign-on bonus. If you choose to have a sign on bonus (usually up to $3,000 for a 6 month assignment) your salary or hourly rate of pay will be decreased.

It has been my experience that when the ads say "Make $XX,000 per year", they are talking about the entire package (i.e. gross pay, benefits, sign-on bonus, moving and housing allowances, etc.).

Salary vs. Hourly
Most agencies will encourage you to stay with them long term by offering a higher yearly salary than you would make being paid hourly. I usually choose to be paid hourly because I like the freedom of going where I want when I want and don't like to be tied to one agency. It is really a matter of preference.

Overtime Usually Not Included
However, the ads are usually not calculating money you can make working overtime in their yearly figure. A standard work week is 36-40 hours. Most facilities will allow you to work overtime which is over and above what the ads are including.

I personally know of several travel nurses who work 5 twelve hour shifts per week for 3 months and then take two months off between assignments.

I offer my congratulations to all those who are graduating nursing school this semester. Good luck in the future and keep travel nursing in mind.

P.S. if you haven't found a nursing dress for graduation, check out these nursing dresses for sale.