Travel Nursing Contract Vocabulary You Need to Know

Rick Martinez

This should come as no surprise to you, but newsflash...not all travel nurse contracts are the same!

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Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

But first, let's ease you into this because many nurses reading this may be brand new to the world of travel nursing. And for those who may be in a traditional nursing role, contracts may be a foreign topic. But the fact of the matter is that if you're a current or soon-to-be travel nurse, then you will be reading and eventually signing a contract for your assignment.

It might feel overwhelming and to the point where you might be shaking your head no.

But once you understand the nuances of your contract, I promise it almost becomes second nature. Not only that, but you'll quickly grasp how important they are and then make them work for you. Not against you.

My hope is that this will help you better embrace the wonderful world of travel nursing and not let the new jargon, or contract, scare you away.

Tell me about the types of contracts

First of all, it's essential to know that up until recently, the general travel nurse contract was for 13-weeks.

That being said, not all contracts are 13-week stints. Here's what I mean, and here are the different types.

The standard 13-week gigs

This 13-week timeframe means that you can potentially work, travel, move, and groove to four new gigs in a one-year time frame, which means that in a standard 52-week year, there are four 13-week periods. Each 13-week contract, or gig, will have specific details, pay rates, benefits, and any stipends.

A 13-week assignment has been around as long as I've been an RN (26 years) but is often being replaced or modified to shorter, quicker contracts.

And that brings us to the next type of contract.

The rapid response deployment

The term is almost self-explanatory in that you, the RN, are needed NOW!

These types of assignments usually pay more, but the nurse must be able to respond immediately and get down to business and to caring for patients. These contracts typically need at least two years of experience, and some may require a travel background. A rapid response may be anywhere from 4 weeks to 13 weeks in duration.

The final note on this is that these are not for the faint of heart.

Be flexible, prepare yourself for unique conditions, and most of all, remember that the goal is to deliver top-notch patient care.

Per diem hustles

While on an assignment, many travel RNs choose to pick up extra shifts as a "per diem" nurse.

It's a great way to augment your income, and it doesn't require a long-term commitment. Per diem means "as needed," and there is no physical contract to sign for the most part. It means that an agency might call you and ask if you're available to pick up an extra shift. Boom. Simple.

The reason I mention it here in this contracts article is so that you are assured that you can indeed pick up per diem shifts while on assignment.

There are plenty of local per diem strafing firms in just about every city in the USA, and many facilities even have their own internal, per diem workforce.

Do I need to work days and nights?

This is an excellent question for travel nurses signing a contract.

And it's also a potential deal-breaker.

Nurses already know the distinctions between 7a or 7p. You've either worked days, or nights, or perhaps flip-flop between the two. Personally speaking, I've been a night nurse for most of my career and prefer it.

But not all do.

When you're going through your travel nurse contract, be sure that it clearly states you will either work on days or nights. Also, be sure that it doesn't stipulate you'll do both. In other words, get clarification on this before you sign!

As I write this, my current contract has me on day shift, 7a-7p, but I was told that we might be moved to nights. But, I did agree to this before signing and coming to this gig.

Will my hours be guaranteed?

This is arguably one of the most critical components of your contract or soon-to-be contract.

Guaranteed hours.

I strongly prefer a deal that has a guaranteed and set number of hours per week between you and me. I realize some nurses like to work 5-7 shifts, but at a minimum, I assure myself that there will be at least three 12-hour shifts a week.

Word to the wise, though, not all travel contracts have guaranteed hours.

The beauty of that guarantee is that even if they don't work you, you'll get paid for up to a certain number of hours during your contract. Make sure you understand the terms of your deal and the amount of time that will be covered.

The final word

The final word is to always read your contract carefully for any unclear information or if you're not sure what something means.

You want to make sure you know the terms of the agreement before signing anything. Be clear about your desired work hours and know how many hours are guaranteed concerning the total number of weekly contracted hours. If, after reading this article, there are still questions lingering in your mind, reach out to a professional or find a recruiter who will steer you right.

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I'm a freelance writer and a nurse, exploring the world one beer, donut, and experience at a time. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare, with the occasional emphasis on donuts. #NomNom

San Antonio, TX
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