7 Red Flags in Travel Nursing

7 Red Flags in Travel Nursing
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There are so many things that I love about travel nursing, but with that comes so many things that I really, really dislike.  The uncertainty of it all.  The questions that never seem to get answered.  The pay packages that you don’t truly understand.  And the recruiters that can at times, be short-tempered and not willing to explain your endless questions.

While travel nursing may be an enigma to you, I’m here to share with you 7 red flags in the travel nursing world that are just that – red flags!  If you’re just starting as a travel nurse or looking to get into travel nursing, these 7 things are no-go’s… so commit them to memory friends!  Plus I’m sharing with you how to address these things when speaking with your recruiter or in an interview.


7 Red Flags in Travel Nursing


1.  Your Recruiter Submits You to a Job Without Your Knowledge

This is an absolute – no-go.  A recruiter should never submit you to a job without clearing it with you first for various reasons.  First, once you’re submitted you can no longer negotiate for more pay.  And second, once you’re submitted, nobody else can submit you to that hospital.  Therefore you’re stuck.



I would encourage you to make it clear to any and every recruiter that you speak with, that you don’t want to be submitted to a job unless you’ve “okayed” it first.  Read this post so you know the most important questions to ask a recruiter when submitting for a job!


2.  You’re the Lowest Paid Traveler on the Floor

A huge red flag, (and it’s happened to me), is finding out that you’re the LOWEST paid traveler on the floor.  It is beyond frustrating to know that you’re doing the same job as the other travel nurses, but for whatever reason, you’re not earning as much money.  There are multiple reasons why this could be, including that you’re working with a different company/recruiter than another traveler on your floor, the pay has been increased after you’ve already signed your contract, and more.


For an in-depth guide to why you may be the lowest paid travel nurse on the floor, I encourage you to purchase The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle where I talk about, in-depth, pay structure, the different things that go into a pay package, and how to negotiate your pay.



I believe that as travel nurses, we should be more upfront and honest about our pay packages to hold recruiters accountable.  Once you get to the floor, as long as you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to ask around and put feelers out there for what other travelers are making.  If they are making significantly more than you each week (there is a variety of factors that go into this, and to understand it best I encourage you to invest in The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle), call your recruiter and have an open discussion about it.  You might get a pay raise out of it!


3.  Working With a Recruiter Who is Difficult to Reach

Not being able to get ahold of your recruiter is one of the most frustrating things as a travel nurse.  Oftentimes your recruiter is the one link between you and the hospital.  So if anything goes wrong, or you have questions about anything, your recruiter is who you reach out to.  And if you can’t get a hold of them, well, that’s a red flag.

With that being said, you have to remember that recruiters are people too.  I try to reach my recruiter during typical “office hours” and make sure to pay attention to which time zone they are in.  If my question isn’t an emergency, I’ll also try to reach out via email instead of the phone.  And I certainly try to avoid calling them during the night shift and on the weekends unless it’s an absolute emergency.



When I first speak with a recruiter, I like to ask them how they liked to be reached.  Will I have their personal phone number or are they giving me their work phone number?  I also like to address after hour emergencies as some companies provide you with a phone number to call, and other recruiters deal with things themselves.


4.  Getting Your First Paycheck and Realizing it’s Lower than What You Were Quoted

This can and does happen in the travel nursing world.  Some recruiters will quote you a take-home pay and then your first paycheck will be lower than what was quoted.  This is because of taxes being taken out.  Some recruiters take out too little taxes, meaning that they’ve overestimated what your weekly take-home pay will be.  And some recruiters will take out just the right amount, or too much taxes, which means that your take-home pay will be even more than what was quoted.

You should also know that some companies (like Faststaff), don’t allow their recruiters to calculate the take-home pay after taxes and instead quote you only the gross pay.



You can address this issue by asking your recruiter how much taxes they are taken out when giving you your net pay.  You can always ask them to do the math by taking out a higher tax percentage or doing the math on your own.


Do you need help understanding your pay package?  Make sure to read Your Guide to Travel Nurse Pay + The Importance of Transparency in Travel Nursing


5.  Working at a Hospital that Doesn’t Grasp the Value of a Traveler

Another thing to keep in mind as a travel nurse is where you’ll be working.  There are hospitals out there that treat travel nurses great!  They advocate for travel nurses, treat them as staff, don’t give them the worst assignments or worst schedules, and the team is genuinely excited for them to be there.

Then there are hospitals that don’t treat travel nurses the greatest.  They may only give you “easy” patients, not understanding that travelers are smart, adaptable, and hard-working.  Or they may give you the worst shifts, put you on every weekend, etc.  And at the worst of hospitals, there can be nurses who are even rude to the travelers.



Depending on how bad you want to be at a certain hospital, you may need to brush this bad behavior off for a short 13-weeks.  Otherwise, I would start by asking your recruiter if they’ve placed travelers at this specific hospital before and what their feedback was.  I would also inquire about the orientation process too.

You can also go about this a completely different way!  Instead of telling your recruiter where you want to go, ask them where they’ve gotten the most positive feedback.  I did that for one assignment and ended up in Phoenix, a place I would’ve never thought to go on my own.  It ended up being one of my favorite assignments!


6.  A Pushy Recruiter

One of my top pet peeves in travel nursing is working with a recruiter who is pushy and doesn’t truly have your best interest at heart.  This pushy recruiter can try to get you placed into a job that you may not even want to be in all for the sake of them getting paid while you’re the one stuck in your assignment working for 13-weeks.

A pushy recruiter can be disguised in many ways, but the most obvious is when they rush you to sign a contract without you being able to take a step back and think about it.  They may say, “Hurry, this will go fast and then you won’t get the job”.  Or, “We can negotiate after you sign the contract”.  While assignments can and do go fast, you still need to take the time to decide whether or not this assignment is truly the right fit for you.



It’s important to remember that YOU are the one making the recruiter money.  The recruiter works for you, not the other way around.  If you find that you’re working with a pushy recruiter, take a step back, evaluate if it’s a job you truly want, and if it isn’t… cut ties.  You’ll be so much happier, in the long run, finding a recruiter that has your back and doesn’t push you into an assignment that isn’t meant for you.  (P.s. I’ve worked with tons of pushy recruiters until I finally found one that I jived with.  If you want her contact information, send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll happily give it to you!).


Need help breaking up with your recruiter?  Read How to Break Up With Your Travel Nurse Recruiter


7.  Not Getting Paid Correctly

As anyone who gets a paycheck can tell you, not getting paid correctly is one of the most infuriating things to happen.  As travel nurses, we want to be out exploring our new cities, having fun, and making new friends.  We don’t have time to be chasing down money that is rightfully owed to us, but unfortunately… it can happen.



Unfortunately, due to experience, some companies don’t do a good job of paying you appropriately.  They may withhold your stipends, forget to reimburse you for licenses or fees, or even forget to reimburse you for travel expenses.  To stay ahead of this, it’s imperative to understand your contract and to also be checking your paystub weekly to ensure that your payment is correct.  If it isn’t I would reach out to your recruiter ASAP to get this issue dealt with.


Travel nursing is a life-changing, amazing experience.  But of course, with the good comes the bad.  As long as you have a good attitude and educate yourself about travel nursing, you should be able to handle these “red flags” with ease!




I created The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle to guide you through everything you need to know as a travel nurse from start to finish.  The bundle goes through all of these things previously listed, plus more!


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way 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 who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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