Landing the Highest Paying Travel Nursing Gig

Some of the most common questions nurses have when making the switch to travel nursing are about payroll. How do I get paid? Will I make more money as a travel nurse? How do taxes factor in? Hospitals and clinics will often pay more to fill urgent positions and may even offer bonuses and other incentives in crisis situations. If you’re looking to maximize your bottom line, here are some tips for landing the highest-paid travel nursing jobs on the market.

Adventure Post 11.10.17

1. Crisis Assignments

Hospitals typically pay more to fill “crisis” assignments. These assignments require a quick turnaround, (usually 2 weeks or less), so it’s important for nurses to have all their credentials and documentation in order if they’re considering these types of assignments. Facilities often rely on travel nurses to leverage flexible-assignment options to manage patient care during staff shortages. These assignments typically become available when facilities are managing unexpected census spikes, unit openings, emergency responses, EMR upgrades, etc. Sometimes, crisis assignments arise from a natural or man-made disaster, where nurses are called in to assist with patient overflow and emergency response plans. More often, the “crisis” simply refers to the urgency with which the position needs to be filled.

Looking for your next travel assignment?  Search our gigs here.

Unfortunately, an urgent staffing need agencies often see is when hospital staff announces their intent to strike. Strikes can occur at any time but are usually planned in coordination with the facility. This is to ensure that hospitals have adequate time to find temporary staffing, so there are no interruptions in patient care. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, and the risk to patient care, hospitals are willing to offer as much as double what they would normally offer for a standard contract. If you’re flexible, and live more of a minimalist lifestyle, these short-term crisis contracts can be highly profitable.


2. Shift, Skills, and Location 

If the appeal of crisis assignments is alluring, but you want more of a long-term contract, there are other options that might suit you better.

  • Look at night shift contracts versus day shift. Some facilities will offer a differential for a night shift contract over a day shift. Facilities also tend to have more night shift openings than day shift. If you can switch to a nocturnal schedule, it may be a significant difference in weekly pay and be the reason you’re able to capitalize on higher-paying locations.
  • Consider cross-training to gain additional skills. Picking up telemetry skills, conscious sedation skills, and more could make you marketable for specialized units that may pay more than your typical specialties, such as performing conscious sedation in the IR versus a typical ICU or ER contract.
  • Location, Location, Location. Getting more bang for your buck is largely dependent on where you live. Typically, more desirable or “destination” locations offer positions with lower pay, whereas the less glamorous locations will have more incentives to attract nurses. States along the West and East Coast have higher salaries on average, while states in the Midwest and deep South usually pay lower on average. According to ZipRecruiter, the top 5 highest paying cities for travel nurse jobs are:

Stanford, CA: $52.60 per hour

New York, NY: $48.77 per hour

Seattle, WA: $48.31 per hour

Boston, MA: $48.16 per hour

Washington, D.C.: $46.77 per hour

However, when comparing these earnings relative to the cost of living in these areas, your disposable income can shrink dramatically. Take a look at FurnishedFinder, Airbnb, Homeaway, and Extended Stays for an idea of what types of housing will be available, and how much it’ll cost weekly or monthly. A good rule of thumb to maximize earnings is to find housing that costs less per month than what you earn per week. When you have this information, ask yourself, does this satisfy my budget and financial goals? Do I feel well-compensated?

3. Bonuses

Finally, we have bonuses. On occasion, facilities and staffing agencies will offer bonuses to incentivize candidates to fill contract needs. These bonuses fall into three main categories: Sign-on, completion, and referral. It’s pretty rare for a facility to offer a sign-on bonus for a travel contract. These types of bonuses are often reserved for rare crisis situations or for permanent staff. Instead, facilities will offer completion bonuses that are paid after the length of your contract if you’ve satisfied all stipulations, such as not calling out of any shifts and being on time. Agencies can also offer sign-on and completion bonuses outside of what the facility is offering, but it usually gets factored into your rate of pay over the course of the contract, which effectively lowers your weekly net take-home pay. It’s important to recognize where the bonuses are coming from to decide if you’re getting the best deal.

For some passive income, take advantage of your agency’s referral bonus program if they have one. The amount of the bonus will vary from agency to agency depending on numerous factors, but if you’re a Rock Star, and know of other Rock Stars, you can certainly boost your pocketbook substantially here.

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Now that you have the info, let’s start beefing up that bank account. If you’re ready to begin your travel nursing adventures and make the most of what’s out there, so are we! Fill out a quick application below to connect with one of our Rock Star Axis Recruiters. They’re willing and eagerly waiting to go over our most competitive weekly pay packages!

Go Ahead. Be a Rock Star!

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