Your Guide to Travel Nurse Pay + The Importance of Transparency in Travel Nursing

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I believe that one of the most frustrating things when it comes to travel nursing is understanding your pay package.  And even more frustrating than that is finding a recruiter who works for a company that allows them to be upfront and transparent as possible with your pay package.  As a new travel nurse, it feels like recruiters are talking in code when they address how much you’ll be getting paid.  Throwing out words like “gross”, “net”, “bill rate”.  When I started, it was enough to overwhelm me and make me second guess getting into travel nursing.  But fear not!  This post will guide you through your travel nurse pay package and address the importance of transparency in travel nursing.


Understanding Your Travel Nurse Pay

nurse at table with computer curious about pay packages


Terms to Know

Before you speak to a recruiter, here are some important terms to know in regards to pay.  Remember, if you get confused or don’t understand words that are being used, it is okay to ask your recruiter to slow down and explain further.  A good recruiter will make sure that you understand what is being said.  That is one thing that I love about my recruiter at Fusion Medical Staffing.  She takes the time to make sure I understand exactly what she is saying so that there are no surprises when I get to my assignment and receive my first paycheck.  (DM me on Instagram and I’ll pass along my recruiters info, she’s the best!).

Gross Pay – The amount of money you receive before any taxes or deductions are taken out.  Usually, when you see a job listed online the pay that is shown is the money you receive BEFORE taxes.  Meaning that your paycheck won’t be as high as shown.

Net Pay – The amount of money you receive after taxes are taken out.  When speaking with a recruiter, I like to ask, “What will my paycheck be AFTER taxes”.  It’s also important to know what tax percent your recruiter is using.  Some recruiters will take out 25% taxes, which I find to be the most accurate representation of what your paycheck will be.  While other recruiters only take out 20% taxes meaning your take-home pay will usually be lower than what they quoted you.  Please note, that some companies will not give you your net pay.  They require you to figure it out on your own.

Bill Rate – The bill rate is the hourly rate that the hospital is paying each nurse.  However, each nurse doesn’t receive that exact bill rate.  First, the company takes a portion (this helps pays for upkeep and staff) and then you get the leftovers.  This is why contracts vary between travelers doing the same job.  While you can ask for the bill rate, most recruiters do not share this information.

Stipend – You will receive both a housing stipend and a meal stipend.  These stipends are NOT taxed.  Meaning what you see is what you get!  You might hear a recruiter say “I maxed out your housing stipend”, meaning they put all the money that they could into your housing so that you could get more money on your paycheck.

Travel Stipend – Most companies offer what is called a “travel stipend”.  This is money that is given to you on your first and last paycheck to compensate you for traveling to your new assignment.  This number is usually around $500 total but varies between companies and varies depending on how far away you are from your assignment.  This number is taxed so if you want to earn more money you can decline it and ask them to put the amount into your housing/meal stipend.

Hourly Rate – Your hourly rate is what you earn an hour.  Typically this number is quite low because it is taxed.  Your hourly rate will usually range anywhere from $15-$35/hour.  (I personally don’t feel comfortable with an hourly rate below $20).  This part of your salary is what is reported to the IRS, so you want to be careful that it isn’t too low.

Referral Bonus– A referral bonus is money that you get if you refer a friend to the company that you work with.  As long as that friend mentions you when first speaking with a recruiter then you will receive a set amount of money (this is taxed).  Each company has different rules on when you will receive your referral bonus.  Some companies require an assignment to finish before paying referral bonuses, while Fusion pays referral bonuses after 5-weeks of an assignment.  There is no limit to how many people you can refer and how many referral bonuses you can receive!


Things That Affect Your Travel Nurse Pay

Even after getting quoted your net pay, there will still be things that affect your pay package – and another reason why not all travel nurses get the same paycheck!  As stated earlier, the amount of taxes that your recruiter takes out and quotes you usually won’t be 100% accurate.  To prepare, I like to assume my paycheck will be at least $50 lower/week than what I was told.  Another thing that will affect your pay package is whether or not you’re taking company health insurance.  If you are, more money will be taken out each week and your paycheck will be lower.  If you put money into a 401k, then your pay will also be lower.  Sense a theme?  Basically, if you decline all company benefits you will be receiving the most amount of money each paycheck.


For even more information on what your travel nurse pay package means and how to negotiate, purchase The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle


Working With a Company that Values Transparency


Why I Work With Fusion

So, now that you understand a little bit about what goes into a pay package, it’s time to talk about transparency!  I’ve made it clear in the past that I wholeheartedly love working for Fusion.  Not only are they one of the best paying travel nurse companies that I’ve worked with, but they practice what they preach by putting travelers first.  Recently, Fusion is shaking up the travel nurse industry and becoming even more transparent than before.  So what does that mean for us, travel nurses?  It means that we have the chance to choose our own adventure, to know what to expect out of an assignment and a contract, and to be in the driver’s seat for the first time.

Fusion has re-created its website to be more traveler-friendly.  This means that they have provided loads of information upfront, without even having to speak with a recruiter.  Not only can you filter your search results to what suits you… for instance, I search “NICU, nurse” and filter to see where jobs are.  But they also provide pay packages UPFRONT.  Remember, this isn’t what your weekly take-home pay will be.  As I explained above, this is the gross pay.  If you want to apply for one of the jobs listed you can “quick apply” or go ahead and fill out a full application, either way, a recruiter will follow up with you.  (Please note, not all pay packages are provided.  This is because these positions are more difficult to calculate pay and Fusion wants to be as accurate as possible).

Aside from being upfront with the pay package, Fusion offers all pertinent details you need to know when applying to an assignment.  Details include things like the hospital you’ll be working at, start date, assignment length, which shift you’ll be working, charting system, and more.  Again, this is all upfront before even speaking with a recruiter so you know if the job sounds like something you’d want to apply for without wasting time going through a recruiter first.


For more on transparency in travel nursing – check out A Travel Nurse’s Review of Fusion Medical Staffing and Fusion Marketplace


With Fusion at the forefront of putting travelers first, by listing out job details and pay packages on their website, I feel empowered and less anxious about the many unknowns of travel nursing.  It makes me feel like I have a hand in where I am going and it makes me feel comfortable working with such an approachable company that has my back.  With the knowledge of how travel nurse pay works and working with a transparent company, your travel nurse experience should be nothing short of incredible!


Are you looking to get into travel nursing?  Don’t miss my post on how to build a travel nurse resume!


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Please note that this post is sponsored by Fusion Medical Staffing.  While I was paid for this work, as always, all ideas and opinions expressed are entirely my own.  I would never work with a company that didn’t align with my core values and beliefs.


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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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