From the day I got out of nursing school, I wanted to be a travel nurse. The excitement of being able to really experience a city and its culture while getting paid at the same time seemed absolutely brilliant.
I met several travel nurses while working at my staff job in Denver and took every opportunity to pick their brains. I usually asked them the basic questions like who did they work for? Where did they like working the best? Did they get benefits?
I did a little of my own research but nothing too extensive; I tend to be one of those people who just jumps in thinking that I will figure things out as I go.
The company I chose to go with was based on a referral from a travel nurse I worked with. She told me the housing was good, she liked her recruiter and that she would get a referral bonus.
The next day I called them up and before I knew it I was heading to Texas. The sooner you find the right company, the faster you can start traveling.
Know Your Needs Before You Search for the Right Travel Nurse Company
When I look back at my travel experience I have to say that it was pretty amazing and I really didn’t have any problems at all, but I do wish I did a little more research and asked a few more questions.
When looking for the best travel nursing company to suit your needs you first have to know what your needs are. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering travel nursing companies:
- Are you going to need health insurance?
- How important is it that you contribute to your retirement?
- Do you prefer to find your own housing or do you want your company to find it for you?
- Where are you looking to travel?
- How do you plan on getting there?
- Do you plan on working per diem as well?
What to Look for in Travel Nursing Agencies
When looking into travel nurse agencies you should first make sure that they provide the basics: free housing or a housing stipend, health and dental insurance, a retirement plan, travel reimbursement, 24 hour customer support, and a variety and abundance of travel nursing jobs all over the country.
Here are a few tips from my experience about the basics:
- Housing: I personally found it much easier to have my agency set up my housing for me. This way I knew it was safe, furnished, close to where I was working, and paid for. If there were any problems all I had to do was call my company and it would be handled. Many people choose to find their own housing and take the housing stipend instead. Your housing stipend depends on the city you live in but tends to be more than the rent you end up paying. This is a good way to make some extra tax free cash. The downside is that it is hard to find short term furnished housing. Many times the landlords require a deposit and if you end up extending your contract, it’s not guaranteed that your landlord hasn’t rented out the place to someone else. If you have never been to that city before, it can also be tough to determine whether the neighborhood is safe or not. Another thing to keep in mind if you are traveling with a pet, is that it makes it difficult to find your own housing. Often times, travel nurse companies have housing already contracted that accept pets. My general recommendation is that if you are bouncing around from city to city then it would be best to utilize your agency for housing or stay with someone you know and take the stipend. If you find yourself wanting to stay in a city and have become familiar with its neighborhoods, then it would be worth it to find your own housing.
- Benefits: The majority of travel nurse companies offer health and dental insurance. Now that the Affordable Care Act is in place, it might be wise to research whether or not it would be more cost effective for you to go with your agency’s healthcare plan or purchase one of your own through healthcare.org. The benefit of going through healthcare.org is that if you do plan on switching travel nurse companies, you won’t have to change your insurance. Some smaller travel nurse companies will give you a healthcare stipend if you don’t take their health insurance so you can purchase your own. As far a retirement plans go, I decided to open up my own Roth IRA and not contribute to the 401K because I didn’t know how long I was going to be traveling. With some companies you can contribute to your 401K from day 1 and with others you have to wait as long as 1 year.
- Travel Reimbursements: When talking with your potential travel nurse company, make sure you ask them what the reimbursement is for travel. “Travel” cost is considered the amount of money it takes you to get from your “tax home” to your travel assignment or from one assignment to the next. Often times this can be negotiated if there is a high need in one state that happens to be across the country. I have found that the average reimbursement is $500. They will pay you half on your first paycheck and the other half when you complete your assignment. You have the option of either driving or flying to your next destination. I personally drove to each of my assignments; I couldn’t imagine trying to fit all my belongings into suitcases and I love road trips.
Important Questions to Ask:
- What is the travel reimbursement…