Diagnosing Your Travel Nurse Pay Package - Part 2 - The Gypsy Nurse

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

March 10, 2019



Diagnosing Your Travel Nurse Pay Package – Part 2

This article is the second in a series of articles we’re calling “Truth in Travel Nursing.”  Designed to provide reliable information to travel nurses, we hope these articles help clear up what we feel are some common misconceptions in the travel nursing profession today.

Tips to determine your best Travel Nursing Pay options:

Travel Nurse Pay PackageHey Gypsies!  We’re here to help shed light on some more myths and misunderstandings about your travel nursing pay options as part of our ongoing “Truth in Travel Nursing” series. As we covered in Part 1, there’s many components that make up a solid travel nurse pay package. It is important that travel nurses consider the full picture when comparing compensation packages. This means uncovering the full scope of benefits and pay options.  So, as part of our effort to better equip you, we’ve compiled these important tips designed to help you make the best choices for your financial well-being and the Gypsy Life!

Licenses and Certifications

We all know we need a nursing license for each state where we work. This includes permanent, new or renewal licenses, and temporary nursing licenses as offered by some states.

You may also get hit with certification costs for BLS, ACLS, PALS, and NRP and any other advance certifications required by the facility. Since certifications are nationally recognized you won’t have to obtain new certifications for every state where you work, but these certifications typically expire every two years and fees must be paid for renewal.

Unfortunately, licenses and certifications can easily add up to over $1,000 – yikes! Gypsy nurses will have to comply with the specific requirements of each assignment to begin work. Be sure to check if your agency offers reimbursements for these expenses and how those benefits are paid out.  This is an often-overlooked benefit when you are comparing packages; it’s not in the travel nurse pay rate but it is a part of the package!

It’s best to know in advance if you have a license or certification that’s going to expire during your next contract so the terms of reimbursement can be discussed upfront. And while some agencies will pay these fees directly, it’s best to stay organized and save all of your receipts.

Medical Records

Travel nurses are also required to provide medical records as part of the travel nurse portfolio, prior to starting an assignment. If you don’t have a current proof of acceptable results you will need to arrange these tests—often times at the facility where you will work. These can include drug screen, TB exam, a physical exam, X-rays, and an MMR titer report. Depending on the requirements, these tests can easily add up to several hundred dollars – yikes!  So, be sure to include this to your discussion list with the agency, to ensure you understand:

  1. How much of the fees are covered
  2. When they are paid or reimbursed
  3. Policies around providing you with copies of all results so that you can use for future assignments.

This is another overlooked benefit when comparing packages; it’s not in the pay rate but it is part of the travel nurse pay package!


You may want to secure your own medical benefits to ensure you will have continuity of care. This makes it easier if you switch to a new travel nurse staffing agency. Having your private insurance means you can take your plan with you.  This also allows you to have a more predictable “Schedule of Benefits.” Changing agencies and changing providers can often mean different co-pays, deductibles, coverage limits, and other variables.  On the downside, you may end up paying more for less coverage. Agencies likely receive discounts for purchasing in volume. Be sure you look at the total picture. Don’t choose on the cost alone. The terms of coverage are important. Make sure that the package you select includes catastrophic coverage.

Bonus Pay

Some agencies offer various bonuses to travel nurses. And while these are not typically big dollars, or a primary reason to choose one agency over another, the extra income is always cool!

Most bonuses are designed in such a way that the agency is essentially passing on some of their savings to the traveler. Furthermore, some are designed as an incentive and many are in collaboration with the facility. The savings are realized in terms of recruitment costs, license fees, medical test, certifications, and training.

Here’s a few examples of bonuses you can ask about for your next assignment (just remember that bonuses are taxed at a higher rate than base compensation):

  • Extension bonus– what if you agree to stay on for another contract period?
  • Retention, rebook bonus, “Loyalty”– what if you agree to stay with the agency and take a new assignment in a different area?
  • Completion bonus– does the hospital offer any incentive pay to the agency for a completed contract?

Do Your Homework

Here’s a check list of what to ask your recruiter when evaluating your next pay package:

  • What portion of your hourly rate is taxable versus non-taxable?
  • Do you qualify for tax-free per diems?
  • Are there licenses and certifications needed and how are they paid?
  • What medical records must you supply, how quickly, and who pays for them?
  • Does the company provide insurance options to you and when are you eligible?
  • How do hours worked affect your living expenses stipend?
  • Are there any bonuses available?

Do you have questions on Pay that we can help answer? Post your questions in the comments and maybe you’ll find your in-depth answer on our next post in this series.

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