Not All Travel Nurse Companies are Created Equal – What to Know Before Signing Your First Contract

Not All Travel Nurse Companies are Created Equal - What to Know Before Signing a Contract (Last Updated On: June 25, 2019)

Not all travel nurse companies are created equal.  Want to know how I know?  Because I’ve been on more than one assignment and have found out that my take home pay is less than the other travelers.  That my benefits aren’t as good.  And the list keeps going.  Sometimes I want to kick myself as I think, “If only I knew what to look for beforehand.”  And while I can’t turn back the clock, I can hopefully prevent someone from making the mistakes I did.  By knowing what questions to ask before signing your contract.


Pst… if you’re reading this, you might also want to read Travel Nurse Agencies Ranked by Travel Nurses


What to Look for When Searching for a Travel Nurse Company



Unfortunately this topic isn’t black and white.  Depending on what company you work with, pay packages will be different.  The main questions you want to ask are – What is my take home pay after (at least) 20% taxes?  What is my hourly pay?  What is the hospital cancellation policy?  If I get cancelled, do I still get my housing and meal stipend?  This last question is very important because some travel nurse companies don’t pay you your stipend if you get cancelled.  That means that if the hospital cancels you (calling in sick is different), that your company also won’t pay your living and meals.  I never agree to a contract like this.  Let me repeat.  I never agree to a contract like this and you shouldn’t either.  If the company won’t budge, I find a new company.


For more on things that I don’t agree to, my “non-negotiables”, check out this article



Regarding benefits, you may prefer different benefits to the next traveler.  For instance, I don’t get health insurance from my company.  I like to take off infinite time between my contracts which means that my health insurance would lapse.  For that reason I pay out of pocket for expensive health insurance with little coverage.  However, you might be different!  Maybe you don’t want to take long breaks between assignments, which makes company health insurance more suitable for your needs.

As far as benefits go I always ask the following – What is your health insurance plan?  When does coverage begin, and when does coverage end?  Some travel nurse companies offer coverage on day one, but the day your assignment is over so is your insurance.  While some companies won’t insure you until two weeks into your contract but once your contract ends your insurance is good for the remainder of the month.  What is the dental and eye insurance like?  Do you offer a matching 401K and if so, how long do I need to work there before you start to match?  Do you have any extra bonuses?  One company I worked with gave you $400 after every X amount of hours worked.  Another company I worked with offered a week of PTO after X amount of hours worked.



As far as reimbursements are concerned, things are a little more black and white.  However, not all travel nurse companies offer the same reimbursements.  I always make sure that two things are reimbursed.  First, my travel expenses in order to get me to my location.  Second, licensure and certification reimbursements.  For me, this is a non-negotiable.  When I am first speaking with a new company, I ask if they reimburse for these two things.  If they say no – I end the call there.


What to Look for When Searching for a Recruiter


Unfortunately you could find everything that you like in a company, yet the recruiter may ruin it for you.  For instance, I was set to work with one of the most highly regarded companies out there who have a great reputation.  My paperwork was turned in, my start date and time off requests were finalized.  The company offered good pay, good benefits, and met my reimbursement criteria.  Yet my recruiter totally ruined it for me!


Do They Have Your Best Interests at Heart?

I’ve worked with countless recruiters who seem to have one thing on their mind – money.  They don’t seem to care that I’m the one driving to the assignment.  Stepping onto a new floor.  Meeting new people, and learning new policies.  Some recruiters have seemed to want to push me into assignments so that they can get paid.  When you first talk with a recruiter, make sure you’re very clear about what you want.  If they disrespect your wishes and try to push you into assignment that isn’t up your alley… bolt.  Either request a new recruiter from the same company or switch companies.


Do They Have Your Back?

If something were to go wrong at work, do you feel like you could call your recruiter at any time of the day/night for backup?  Will they side with the hospital, or will they side with you?


Are They Making Your Paycheck Smaller or Bigger?

Fun fact:  Recruiters can in fact take money from your paycheck and put it towards their own paycheck.  Sketchy, I know.  And most companies have denied it stating, “That wouldn’t benefit me in the long run.”  All I know is that they can do this.  Are you working with someone you think would screw you over?  Or do you trust that they truly want to give you the most money possible?

Note:  I don’t know that every company practices this way.  However, I do know that there are those out there that do.


When it comes down to it, it’s important to keep your end goal in sight.  Sure you might not be the highest paid traveler, be in the best apartment, or have the best travel reimbursement.  But do you like your recruiter?  Do you trust him/her?  Do you like the company you’re with?  Are you having fun traveling?  It can be easy to get caught up in the details of travel nursing.  I know I have, and it isn’t fun.  Just remember that you’re out there to make memories, have different experiences, and learn along the way.  Icing on the cake?  You’re making more than you were as a staff nurse!


Thinking of taking the leap into travel nursing?  Find more tips and advice on the world of travel nursing here…

Knowing When to Walk Away from Your Dream Travel Nurse Assignment

How NOT to Pack for Your First Travel Nurse Assignment

Travel Nursing… What’s That?

Dealing With the Anxiety of Starting a New Travel Nurse Assignment

Five Steps to Killing Your Interview – Travel Nurse Edition

Travel Nursing – Where Do I Start?


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Kylee splits her time between being a NICU nurse and solo traveler. Spending half her time at the bedside, Kylee has been caring for premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for five years now. She began Passports and Preemies in 2017 to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – A vacation geared towards nurses aiming to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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