As a Trusted Health travel nurse or allied health professional, we want you to be knowledgeable about your travel nurse contract and empowered to make informed decisions about your nursing career. Your contract exists to protect you, define your role, ensure fair pay and compensation, and much more!
But don’t let the term “contract” give you pause. While there’s information that you need to know, none of it is incredibly complex or nerve-wracking. Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this important document and why fully understanding it is crucial to a successful travel nurse career!
What is a Travel Nurse Contract?
A travel nursing contract is a legal agreement between you, a healthcare facility, and your agency. This legally binding agreement delineates your working relationship with a facility and the general terms and conditions of this agreement.
As a travel nurse, you must both understand and agree with your contract before signing it. Signing without understanding can lead to otherwise preventable confusion, disappointment, and headaches down the road. And so can signing without agreeing! If you are unhappy with the contract’s terms- the time to negotiate is before signing. Otherwise, your options for changing your contract as a healthcare professional are drastically limited.
When signing a travel nurse contract, the Trusted Health Care Team will be with you every step of the way. Your travel nurse agency plays a vital role throughout the contract process. Not simply a go-between for you and the facility, agencies are there to be both an advocate for and a resource to you. Here’s how this process works:
- Find a travel job you love! Apply and interview.
- If the facility wishes to hire you, your Trusted Nurse Advocate will send you their offer!
- If you like the offer, we will send you an official contract outlining the details of the assignment. If everything looks good to you, you can go ahead and sign your contract to make things official!
- If there’s anything you’d like to change, you should ask your Nurse Advocate where there may be wiggle room to negotiate certain details before signing. Your Nurse Advocate is your ally in the process and will work with you to try to reach terms where you and the facility will both be happy with the agreement.
- The facility can then either approve or deny any requested changes.
- Once you and a facility agree on and sign a contract, you can start working with your Operations Coordinator to ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running on the specified start date. Time to get ready for your next destination!
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s continue with a few more basics.
What's Included In a Travel Nurse Contract?
Several key components must be included in a travel registered nurse contract, whether you travel through Trusted Health or another agency. Here’s what every travel nurse contact should include:
- Assignment Details: Facility name, location, contact information, and the hospital unit you will be working on.
- Schedule & Duration: Contract start date and end date, shifts (days, nights, or rotating), hours worked per week (36, 40, or 48), and any call requirements.
- Compensation: Hourly wage, stipends, any additional rate types (like overtime, on-call, holiday rate, etc.), and other pay package benefits.
- Shift Cancellation Policy: Sometimes, a facility will need to cancel one or more shifts because of low census. In this case, the facility may still be required to pay you (guaranteed hours), or they may not be. If your hours are not guaranteed, there may be a limit to how many times you can be canceled without pay.
- Special Requests: If any requested dates or extended time off is approved, ensure it is also noted and approved in your contract.
We know there are a few other things that you are probably wondering about, such as cancellation and termination clauses, as well as floating requirements. This information is covered in Trusted Health’s Employee Handbook. Our handbook is a great resource to find out any additional information that applies to all of your contracts with Trusted Health.
Always remember that once your contract has begun and you are working, your nurse advocate at Trusted is still available to you as a resource. They will help answer any questions you have and support you in your new role!
How Long are Travel Nurse Contracts?
Travel nurse contracts most commonly start at 13 weeks but can range anywhere from 2 to 26 weeks in length, depending on the facility’s need! Two-week contracts are typically for strike or other short-term contracts, and contracts 26 weeks and up are offered if the facility has a long-standing need that they anticipate going unfilled.
Due to the unpredictable nature of healthcare staffing, contracts longer than 26 weeks will typically not be offered upfront. It can be hard to tell what a facility and unit’s staffing requirements will be 6+ months in advance!
A travel nurse contract extension, or renewal, may be on the table toward the middle or end of your contract- especially if a facility has a continued need and a traveler who desires to stay. If you are interested in an extension, it’s a good idea to let both your Nurse Advocate and your manager at the facility know!
Facilities often won’t decide on an extension until closer to the end of a contract, as this is based on their ability to predict their needs as they look ahead. That being said, it’s never too early to bring it up if it interests you! If a traveler and facility are both happy with their working relationship, it is not unheard of for a nurse to be extended several times, even staying up to a year or returning for a future assignment after a break! Terms like pay and shift can be requested at the time of an extension, but changes are not guaranteed with each contract renewal.
Contract extensions are just one example of the wide range of flexibility that you enjoy as a travel nurse. There are also different types of travel contracts! Depending on your circumstances, you may find that one type of travel contract works better for you than another. Let's learn a little bit more about them in this net section.
Are there Different Types of Travel Nurse Contracts?
In addition to a standard 13-week contract, there are three main types of travel nurse contracts. These are local travel nurse contracts, short-term travel nurse contracts, and strike contracts. Here’s a little more about each.
- Local Travel Nurse Contracts- Local travel contracts are a good option for someone who does not have a tax home or is otherwise not eligible for the tax-free housing and living stipends available to travelers. This is often because they are local to a location or have lived there for over a year. This can also be because they anticipate a loan or social security based on taxable income. Tax situations are often tricky- often, an accountant or the IRS’ website can be a great resource. If these situations apply to you, let your nurse advocate know!
- Short-Term Travel Nurse Contracts- Contracts that range from four to eight weeks are often referred to as short-term travel contracts. These contracts include taxable and non-taxable pay and are often higher-paying than standard 13-week contracts. Short-term contracts are used to fill short-lived, high-demand vacancies in healthcare facilities.
- Strike Contracts- These contracts are a type of short-term contract used by facilities to hire temporary staff in anticipation of, or during, a healthcare worker strike. Strike contracts are often short, high-paying, and unpredictable in nature. Strike contracts ensure patient care continues when regular staff is on strike.
The longest a travel nurse can generally stay in one location and continue to receive non-taxable benefits is one year. You are never under any obligation to extend a contract if you do not want to. After one year, a traveler can stay, but at this time, they will no longer be eligible for tax-free housing and living stipends. These travelers can continue to work a contract but may need to switch from a travel contract to a local contract to best fit their tax situation.
What Happens When My Travel Nurse Contract is Complete?
How you spend your time off between contracts is totally up to you! Take advantage of the flexibility that travel nursing provides and take some extended time off, or begin working again soon after your contract ends if you’re ready for it.
After you complete a travel nurse contract, you are never under any obligation to begin another contract. If you desire to begin working quickly after finishing your current contract, many travel nurses begin looking for a new contract towards the mid-point of their current one. It can take some time to find a career you love and negotiate logistics- so we do not recommend waiting until the last minute to begin looking!
Be sure to download Trusted’s mobile app so that you can begin your next search, right from the palm of your hand!
Can I Cancel a Travel Nurse Contract?
Yes, you can cancel a travel nurse contract, and a healthcare facility can also cancel your contract. Contract cancellation can happen at any time and for any reason. There are many reasons for this, such as a facility canceling due to staffing changes or dissatisfaction with a nurse. A nurse may cancel for personal reasons or because of dissatisfaction or safety concerns with the facility. Here are some essential things to consider in these situations:
- While Trusted Health does not penalize nurses who cancel with a fee, some agencies may. If a travel agency does charge a cancellation fee, a financial penalty for cancellation will be outlined in the terms of your contract. For this reason and many others, it is imperative that you fully understand the terms of your contract.
- Trusted Health values professionalism throughout all aspects of our contracts, including cancellation. We internally track both nurse-initiated cancellations and facility-initiated cancellations and terminations. Our first priority is to assist and support our nurses- but if there is a significant reason for termination or a pattern of cancellations, we may decide to no longer work with a nurse.
- There can be other penalties for canceling a contract, including how it may look to future employers- including your travel agency, healthcare facility, and healthcare system they are a part of. Depending on the circumstances, these organizations may place you on a “Do Not Rehire” or DNR list.
- Contract amendments may occur at any time and are usually requested on behalf of the healthcare facility. These can impact your pay, housing, or living stipends. If a facility and a nurse cannot agree on a contract amendment, cancelation may occur.
Regardless of the reason, all parties should avoid cancellation unless absolutely necessary. With that being said, we are all humans at Trusted, and we know our nurses are too! We know that “life happens,” and we are empathetic and understanding in regard to illness, family emergencies, death, and other life-altering events.
Communication is vital in these situations- if you have questions or need support- speak with your Nurse Advocate as soon as possible!
Tips to Avoid Cancellation as a Travel Nurse
Often, cancellation may occur because of factors that are out of a nurse's control, such as unit census and staffing changes. This is undoubtedly frustrating! Here are a few tips that can help you avoid getting canceled when the budget gets tight and contracts are being cut:
- Punctuality- Being on time is always important! Showing up for shifts promptly and being ready to work reflects on you in a positive manner.
- Attendance- Reliability also improves your track record. If a manager knows that you can be counted on, they will be more apt to keep you over another traveler.
- Professionalism- Being hardworking, helpful, and a team player also can set you apart. Managers will always prioritize keeping strong nurses who seamlessly fit in with the team!
We know that was a lot of information! Congrats on taking the initiative to become an aware and informed travel nurse. Contracts protect you, define your role and responsibilities, and ensure your pay and compensation. It is essential to read your contract, thoroughly understand what it means for you, and ask any questions before signing.
Being knowledgeable about your travel nurse contract empowers you to make informed decisions about your nursing career! If you have any further questions or need additional support, your nurse advocate at Trusted is always here to help.
Travel Nurse Contract FAQ’s
- Can I negotiate my travel nurse contract? What parts can I negotiate?
At Trusted, your start date, time off, shift, and contract length can be negotiated. Your pay and call, weekend, floating, and holiday requirements cannot be. Want to know why? Click here to learn more.
- What should I do with my contract after I sign it?
Keep a copy of your contract in a safe, accessible location! You may want to refer back to it at a later date. You will be emailed a copy of your contract from Trusted Health. Some nurses and traveling professionals prefer to print out and keep hard copies of their contacts in addition to electronic documents.
- What happens if I need to change my travel nurse contract?
Reach out to your nurse advocate or care team here at Trusted! Often, if you have noticed an error and your contract hasn’t started yet, this can easily be fixed. Otherwise, making changes to your contract can be a bit more complicated. We are happy to go over your options with you!
- Can I cancel my contract if I feel that the working conditions are unsafe?
You can cancel your travel nurse contract. However, we prefer to avoid cancellations if at all possible due to the stress it places on healthcare facilities, patients, and staff. That said, your mental health as a nurse is important too! If you have concerns, contact your nurse advocate and care team ASAP. We are here to help you navigate challenging situations and always have your back!
Ready to take your nursing career on the road? Discover a world of opportunities with Trusted Health. With a variety of travel nurse jobs available, you're just a click away from finding the perfect fit for your skills and lifestyle. Browse our current travel nurse jobs and embark on your next adventure today!