Travel Nurse Pay Pitfalls — And How to Avoid Them

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By RNnetwork

May 15, 2023



Travel Nurse Pay Pitfalls — And How to Avoid Them

RNNetwork provided this article.

There are many factors that go into the decision to accept a travel nurse job, but one of the first questions most nurses ask is: How much will I get paid? However, the answer to that question isn’t always as clear and simple as it should be.

When you receive an offer from a travel nursing agency, it’s important to ask clarifying questions and dig deeper to make sure you understand what you’re getting. Not all offers are created equal, and you may end up disappointed if you don’t know exactly what you’re signing up for.

travel nurse pay

Here are three common travel nurse pay pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1. An offer that isn’t really an offer

Once you’ve shown interest or have spoken to a recruiter, some agencies will send you a letter that looks like an offer — look closely because it may not be. Instead, it may just be a generic pay package that doesn’t take your personal preferences or situation into consideration.

“Sometimes nurses think an email they received is an offer, but it’s generic to everyone,” says Michele Kluger, a senior recruiter with RNnetwork. “I hear this a lot, and I recommend they send me the letter. I can help them clarify what it means, and then we can calculate what they’d actually earn with RNnetwork.”

RNnetwork works diligently to come up with a compensation package that’s customized to each nurse’s situation. Senior recruiter Chris Georgiou says it may take a few extra minutes on the phone with your recruiter, but by the end of the conversation, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get paid.

“It’s best to be as specific as possible,” he says. “That way, you know exactly what you’re going to earn for that specific assignment.”

2. More hours than you signed up for

It goes without saying that before you accept an assignment, you should read the offer thoroughly. One issue that comes up again and again, Kluger says, is you were quoted a weekly pay that looked attractive but was higher only because you ended up working more hours than you anticipated.  

Some agencies may not be as transparent as they should be in this regard, and you’ll only discover this after you begin your assignment. Kluger gives an example of someone who began working for another agency: “The nurse didn’t notice, and it wasn’t clearly communicated, that the wages being quoted were for a 48-hour work week rather than a 36-hour work week.”

You may be making the promised weekly pay, but you’ll be working more hours than you planned to earn it.

travel nurse pay

3. Overdoing the non-taxable reimbursements

Travel nurses’ paychecks, at their most elemental level, are comprised of three buckets: hourly, taxable wages; per diem; and housing (or housing reimbursement). Per diem and housing are non-taxable reimbursements but are still part of the total compensation package. RNnetwork offers a custom compensation package whereby nurses can work with their recruiter to determine how they’d like to split up their compensation into these buckets.

For example, some nurses choose to take a higher hourly taxable wage, then a lower stipend and/or per diem. Another nurse may choose a lower hourly taxable wage but a higher housing and per diem. In either scenario, the gross compensation is the same. The only difference is how much of your compensation is taxable vs. non-taxable reimbursement.

Some agencies may try to entice you with offers of lower taxable wages and really high non-taxed compensation to inflate your take-home pay. Be wary of this: Accepting an excessively low taxable hourly wage — what Kluger refers to as a “babysitter’s” wage — could set you up for tax penalties later on. RNnetwork is committed to never going below a reasonable hourly wage because we don’t want to expose you to higher risk down the road if you were audited by the IRS.

Open and honest is best

There are a lot of factors that come into play when considering travel nurse pay and how it works. It may initially seem confusing, but when you connect with an experienced recruiter, they should work diligently to be transparent, open, and honest — and help you to secure the perfect job with the best compensation package possible.

To learn more about travel nurse pay, check out RNnetwork’s Travel Nurse Pay Guide, view today’s travel nurse job openings, or call us at 800.866.0407 to speak to a recruiter.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

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