Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
April 22, 2021 - 5 min read

Travel Nurse Contracts: Negotiate for your worth

As a travel nurse, you have a unique opportunity to negotiate your pay and compensation in a different way from traditional staff nursing positions. Your agency may be able to help you get additional compensation since they’re responsible for helping the hospital find the best nurses.

Discover your dream travel assignment here.

After all, an agency wants to make sure it’s bringing qualified, compensated nurses to the table so that both hospitals and nurses are satisfied. In short, it benefits everyone involved when you know your worth as a travel nurse and are compensated accordingly.

Here are some tips to help you negotiate when taking on a travel nurse position.

Establish Your Worth

First, it’s to your benefit to take the time to establish your worth as a travel nurse. That may require taking on a few contracts so you can get a feel for how different agencies and recruiters work, how pay contracts are structured and the type of compensation that matters most to you. For instance, do you prefer a higher base wage and less benefits? Or do you prefer more extensive benefits and a lower base wage?

Get to know the “lay of the land,” so to speak. Most importantly, show your recruiter and agency you’re serious about a career in travel nursing so you can feel confident when negotiating future assignments.

Know Your Own Priorities

Every travel nurse will have different values that will make certain assignments and packages more desirable. Dollar-for-hour comparison isn’t everything and it’s perfectly fine if other compensation aspects are more important to you. For instance, if gaining certain experience in exchange for a slightly lower wage makes sense for you, go for it!

You might choose to prioritize staying local or prefer assignments in far away destinations you’re eager to visit. Know what’s important to you so you can ask for the benefits that will make the assignment worthwhile for you.

Do Your Research

Travel nursing is a competitive space for recruiters, so do some research into what contracts are offered by other agencies to help guide you in accepting or negotiating a position. If an agency is offering significantly more or less, you can use that as a bargaining tool to try to get the wages and compensation to make a contract more attractive.

Speak with other travel nurses and do research into online positions or travel nurse groups to compare different wage and benefits packages that may be similar to your offered contract. Most travel nurses are more than willing to discuss a breakdown of pay, and give advice on which agencies are helpful to work with.

Learn Your Communication Style

If you’re negotiating a travel nurse contract, it can be helpful to know what communication style you feel the most confident in — and what your nurse recruiter prefers. If your recruiter insists on speaking via video chat every time you interact, but the thought of talking on video makes you want to run away, perhaps another vehicle of communication is more appropriate for you.

You can utilize online resources to uncover your communication style and if you’re aware of your preferred mode of communication, don’t be afraid to stick to it. If you want to talk to your recruiter via email or prefer written communication, present that in your negotiating. Send an email outlining your requests and your communication preferences.

For example, you can say: “Thank you for your time and consideration. For further discussions or decisions, I ask that you please email me as I will be unavailable via phone or phone chat for the time being.”

It’s also worth noting that it may be helpful to consider some version of compromise when it comes to negotiating. If your recruiter’s communication style differs significantly from yours, they may need to see you or talk to you to establish a working relationship of trust, so it may take some give-and-take and learning what works best for you. Consider scheduling an initial video call, followed by outlining your requests and any follow-up communication via email.

Speak with a recruiter about available travel nursing assignments.

Highlight Your Specialties

If you have any speciality experience or certifications, use them! Additional certification in speciality areas, whether it’s critical care or neonatal resuscitation, can and should be compensated accordingly. Healthcare facilities utilizing travel nurses need additional help and finding qualified specialists is usually more challenging than finding general healthcare workers, so speciality travelers may be able to negotiate a higher rate.

Specialty experience outside of specific certification can also help you earn higher wages. For instance, if you have extensive COVID unit experience, that should definitely give you more negotiating power when taking on an assignment for a facility in need of COVID nurses.

If you don’t have a speciality certification yet, consider adding one in your field or one that you’re passionate about pursuing in the future. Certifications can boost your resume and help you expand your skills — and it only take a little while to earn them. You can even talk to your recruiter to see if there are any compensation opportunities to help get the cost of certification covered.

Find a Recruiter Who Will Work for You

Nurse recruiters are people, just like you, and sometimes you might find a recruiter who doesn’t “mesh” with you. That’s OK! That doesn’t mean anything negative about either you or the recruiter. It just means you may need to try working with a few different recruiters before you find one who works well with you.

The good news is, once you do find a recruiter that you work well with, you can build a relationship of trust and your recruiter can help advocate for you and your worth.

If you are a traveling nurse with a consistent track record, a positive work ethic and a willingness to take on new assignments, a recruiter will want to continue working with you. A positive working relationship is a good thing for both of you. So once you’re established, speak openly and honestly with your recruiter about ways you can both work together to ensure that you are taking on assignments that meet your worth as a nurse.

Be Specific With Your Requests

While it may not always be effective to march into your nursing agency’s office and ask for more money, it may be possible to receive additional compensation in other ways. For instance, your agency may be able to grant specific requests that can add to your pay outside of base wages.

For instance, if you want an increased housing allowance or would like a stipend for travel, ask for it. Need a meal delivery service because you’re working in a COVID unit and don’t want to expose others? Speak up!

You can ask for compensation for a lot of additional expenses you may not have considered, including public transportation passes, uniform expenses, licensing fees, continuing education classes, moving services, or Internet and phone costs. If you’re specific about the resources you need, a recruiter can more effectively advocate on your behalf.

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