Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
May 15, 2020 - 4 min read

Rapid Response Contracts and Crisis Contracts: What’s the Difference?

As you search for travel nursing jobs, you may come across different listings for assignments that are listed as rapid response contracts and crisis contracts.

But what exactly is the difference? Let’s break down these two types of common (and higher-paying) travel nursing jobs.

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Rapid Response Travel Nursing Jobs

A rapid response travel nursing contract is when a healthcare facility hires travel RNs to quickly fill positions. If you take a rapid response travel nursing contract, you may be expected to start in as soon as 2 days and may be on assignment for an undetermined amount of time, although the contracts are usually shorter-term in length.

The main difference between rapid response and crisis nursing is that there may be an urgent need for rapid response travel nursing positions anytime a facility is in sudden need of nurses quickly–it may not be a full-on crisis, such as with COVID, but could be something like with a new software upgrade that was needed sooner than expected, a sudden influx of non-emergency patients, or an internal occurrence.

Depending on the exact position you take, rapid response nurses may also have to be willing to be flexible and may be needed for positions that operate on an “on-call” basis, such as with emergency surgeries or critical care. You may find yourself needing to stay close to the facility and be available to work with short-term notice, so this type of position may not leave you with a lot of downtime to explore a new location.

Because rapid response nursing involves taking on a brand-new position quickly, you will also be compensated accordingly and may receive a rapid response bonus, higher base wages, or additional stipends, such as a higher housing stipend since it can be difficult to procure housing in a short amount of time.

You may see additional compensation such as:

  • Extra pay per hour
  • Shift bonuses
  • Sign-on bonuses
  • Additional stipends for travel, housing, or food

As a rapid response RN, you can expect to get to work ASAP, which means you won’t be getting a lengthy orientation or time to “settle in.” You’ll be jumping right in, so being prepared is key. That also means that if you’re interested in taking a rapid response travel nursing job, you need to be sure you have everything you need to get started right away–all paperwork needs to be updated with your agency, you need to have the proper multi-state nursing licenses that will let you travel at a moment’s notice, and you’ll need “stand-by” arrangements for things like house sitters, pet care, or someone to get your mail.

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Crisis Contract Travel Nursing Jobs

A crisis travel nursing contract is given during times a hospital or a geographical location has determined that it is in a time of crisis. Nurses working in a crisis contract may be working in high-risk conditions, or areas that have declared a state of emergency. It is possible that a crisis travel nursing contract may also be a rapid response contract, if the crisis is urgent, so you may get higher wages for both.

The crisis may be, like right now, a pandemic that is striking and overwhelming a hospital or area. Or the crisis could be isolated to that specific hospital, such as if a natural disaster hit the area. Pay for crisis contracts does vary, based on the nature of the crisis, the hospital’s budget, what agencies are able to negotiate with the hospital, and the nature of the skilled nursing care needed. Highly-specialized ICU nursing, for instance, may warrant higher base wages and bonuses, than general medical-surgical floor needs.

When you go through a travel agency, your crisis contracts will outline the specifics of your crisis pay, which may include both a higher base wage and additional stipends, such as overtime pay and bonuses. For instance, a crisis contract may include something like:

  • $20-$50 of extra pay per hour
  • Additional hours per shift or week — for example, 14-hour shifts, or 4 12s instead of 3
  • Overtime pay
  • Shift bonuses

One important distinction with a crisis contract is that it is normally a shorter-term assignment than a standard travel nursing contract may be. While many standard travel nursing job assignments are for 16 weeks or more, crisis contract positions may be as little as a few weeks.

Because of their high pay rate and the unpredictable nature of the crisis (whatever it may be), hospitals typically employ contract crisis nurses for shorter time periods, so they can adjust and evaluate if they are needed as time goes on. It makes more financial sense for the hospital to be able to sign on nurses for short time periods and continue to hire, rather than bring on crisis nurses for long periods of time.

Rapid Response Contracts and Crisis Contracts: Which is right for you?

Both rapid response and crisis contracts have benefits for travel nursing, depending on your availability, your needs at the time, and your own set of skills. If you happen to be an ICU RN who specializes in vented patients, well, you may just be a highly valuable asset in a COVID-19 crisis and look into taking a short-term crisis position across the country.

On the flip side, if you’re in a position to be highly-flexible and are looking to build skills while earning a high income, you may choose a rapid response contract. A rapid response contract may allow you to travel to a new area not be working in risky conditions but still gain valuable experience. If you’re able to come into work on a moment’s notice, you may benefit from a rapid response contract.

Additionally, the beauty of travel nursing is that you don’t have to choose — you can try a crisis contract when it makes sense for you to do so, and later, give a rapid response travel nursing contract a try. Travel nursing allows you to “try on” many different types of experiences to find what works for you — all while earning money and traveling to new places in the process.

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