Seven Tips to Help Maximize Pay as a Travel Nurse

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By Medely

September 22, 2020



Seven Ways Travel Nurses Can Maximize Their Pay

This article was provided by Medely.

From picking up per diem shifts to going back to school, there are multiple ways for travel nurses to earn more.

No one goes into nursing to get rich – most nurses are answering a call to help others. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ensure you’re being paid well while providing care. There’re many different ways to increase your pay as a nurse, but we’ve put together some of our top suggestions. Some of these tips are easy to implement – others will take time, a personal investment, and drive.

If you’re here, it’s likely you’re already a travel nurse – or at least considering it. This is a great first step to maximizing your earnings. Travel nurses make 20% more than non-travel nurses on average. 

These tips assume you’re already working as a travel nurse. But enough preamble – let’s jump into our…

Seven tips to maximize pay as a travel nurse

Tip #1: Location, location, location

It’s true in real estate and it’s true for travel nurses. Whether it’s a local shortage of qualified professionals or just a higher cost of living, some markets simply pay better. Metropolitan areas typically pay better than rural ones. Non-hospital roles often pay better as well. 

Just be careful of the geographies that pay more because the cost of living is higher. You might wind up just spending that extra pay on higher rent and groceries.

Tip #2: Pick up per diem shifts while on assignment

Picking up per diem shifts is a great way to maximize your pay during the coronavirus pandemic. Many cities are still under fairly strict lockdown mandates and your options for fun and adventure are limited. If your contract allows for overtime, working an extra shift or two at your current facility is easy to do. But it’s probably better for your career to work with different facilities in your market.

Working extra shifts at different facilities isn’t just about more money. It allows you to grow your network by working with different staff and doctors. Not only that, but you’re also able to see how different professionals approach various procedures and how they provide care.

Your choice in a travel nursing agency may impact this. Some agencies don’t offer per diem work or allow you to work with another agency to book shifts. While some travel nursing tech platforms, like Medely, offer both assignments and per diem right in the same app.

While there are a lot of benefits to working per diem shifts while on assignment, there can be drawbacks too. It’s important to make sure you get enough time off and rest. Your patients deserve the best care you can give, not what little gas you have left in the tank.

Tip # 3: Take less desirable shifts

From TGIF to “Woo-hoo! Three day weekend!” most of us think of work as Monday through Friday day shifts. But weekends, holidays, and night shifts all typically pay better for the exact same work as a weekday shift. Not everyone can make these less-desirable shifts fit their day-to-day schedule or travel plans, but the benefits are clear. If it works for you, these shifts can earn you an average of a few dollars more per hour.

Tip #4: Maximize your tax benefits and travel perks

Travel nursing typically includes per diem stipends for lodging and meals. These are generally tax-free up to a certain amount, which is set by the General Services Administration (GSA) and differs by geography and time of year. 

How travel nursing agencies approach stipends can be wildly different. Some reimburse you for your actual expenses, up to the maximum. Others will offer a flat amount lower than the GSA recommendations for your location. And others, like Medely, offer the maximum tax-free stipend amount for your location on every assignment. 

Obviously this isn’t the only deciding factor in the agency you choose. But if you work as a travel nurse for the majority of the year, they can add up to a large amount of your income quickly.

Tip #5: Pursue a new specialty

It’s no secret that certain specialties pay better. CRNA and Nurse Practitioners are at the top of the list but come with an advanced degree requirement. ICU and ER nursing traditionally pay well – but they come with a higher stress level. And any change in specialty will require you seizing the right opportunity. Yet another reason for building your professional network is important.

But if you’re up for the challenge, the pay off is clear. The degrees, certifications, and experience can add up to a specialty that pays six figures instead of five. Speaking of getting a new degree…

Tip #6: Earn an advanced degree

Earning a master’s degree is the first step to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). It’s also the way to move into education, research, or climbing the ladder in healthcare administration. Each of these career paths holds considerable income potential, but they’re not for everyone. Not only do they require an incredible investment of time and money, but the programs themselves are rigorous and competitive. On top of that, several of these career moves will limit how much direct patient care you provide.

Tip #7: Get creative with facility and industry choices

Most people automatically think of hospitals and family practice when thinking of nursing – and certainly, that’s where many nurses work. But there’s plenty of work for nurses outside of that setting in both full-time roles and as side work. You can pick up shifts as an insurance nurse, tutor local nursing students, provide telehealth support, offer medical transcription or technical writing services, and much more. Not only can you earn extra income by working in these areas, but you might also discover something new that you’re passionate about.

Find the right balance for you

Whether you need a couple of extra dollars an hour or you want to move into a new tax bracket – the right choice will be different for everyone. 

Some of these choices are fairly simple. Picking up travel assignments in a better market or finding an agency that pays you better can maximize your pay with minimal risk. Working third shift or eating up your time off with per diem shifts may help you meet a temporary goal, but may not fit your lifestyle. 

Working around the clock can quickly lead to burnout. Providing medical transcription may bore you to tears. So don’t be afraid to try something and decide it’s not for you. No matter your choices, money is secondary to your health, happiness, and the level of care you give your patients.

We hope you found these tips for to help maximize pay helpful. Have you found any ways to help you maximize pay? Comment them below.

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