What Is a Blended Rate? Travel Nurse Pay Explained - Trusted Nurse Staffing 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You just landed your dream travel nursing assignment but are confused about your pay. After hearing, “This is combined; that is combined,” your head is spinning — and you want it to make sense. 

Blended rates are quite common when agencies and recruiters quote travel nurse pay. However, some new travel nurses, as well as some seasoned veterans, find blended-rates confusing. 

By the end of this article, you will be able to explain what a blended rate is in travel nursing, know if it’s beneficial for you, and feel confident that you understand your blended-rate travel nurse contract. 


Table of Contents



What Is a Blended Rate in Travel Nursing?

A blended rate can be calculated by adding the value of all taxable and non-taxable benefits to an hourly wage and creating a lump-sum hourly rate. 

For example, an employer may quote $47.83 per hour for a 36-hour work week, but it includes:

  • $27 per hour as a taxable base rate
  • $250 per week for an M&IE stipend; and
  • $500 per week for your housing stipend

This means that the hourly rates for the M&IE stipend and housing stipend are $6.94 and $13.89, respectively.

Blended rates may be partial or total, which means the agency may be combining some of your stipends or benefits, but not all. 


blended rate traveling nurse


Tangible Values That May Be Included in a Blended Rate

Tangible values are your base pay and any stipends that would normally translate into a monetary payment, such as:

  • M&IE (meals and incidental expenses) stipends; and
  • Housing stipends

But instead of these variables being quoted as separate items, they are reflected in your paycheck as part of a single rate.


Non-Tangible Values That May Be Included in a Blended Rate

Perhaps even more confusing are the non-tangible values that companies may include in your rate, such as:

  • Medical benefits
  • Company-provided housing; or
  • Life insurance

These variables are reflected in your paycheck as part of a single rate. But because they are non-tangible, it can cause some calculation issues when travel nurses are trying to determine their overall take-home pay.


Blended Rate Breakdown Examples

When searching for travel nursing positions, you may come across two types of compensation packages — those that include the non-tangibles as part of the hourly rate, and those that don’t.

Here’s what a non-blended rate compensation package that includes only the tangible items may look like:

  • Base pay – $24/hr
  • Meals and incidentals – $250 per week
  • Company-provided lodging – $500 per week
  • Travel reimbursement – $700 one time

When offered as a blended rate, it amounts to $46.33 per hour for a 36-hour work week.

A blended rate that includes non-tangible values may look like this:

  • Base pay – $24/hr
  • Meals and incidentals – $250 per week
  • Company-provided lodging – $500 per week
  • Travel reimbursement – $700 one time
  • Non-taxable benefits – 20% of base pay

Adding non-taxable benefits as part of the blended rate would increase the perceived hourly rate from $46.33 to $51.13 per hour.


travel nursing blended rate


Is a Blended Rate Beneficial for Travel Nurses?

While there’s nothing inherently good or bad about blended rates, travel nurses must be diligent when understanding exactly what is included in the advertised hourly rate. 

In reality, a blended rate is the same amount of money a travel nurse would make if the hourly rate and individual benefits and stipend were quoted individually. 

Think of it as a lump sum instead of an itemized list.


What Creates Frustration Around Blended Rates?

The main frustration around blended rates is the confusion they can cause when trying to calculate tangible pay vs. non-tangible pay.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we partner with our nurses to ensure full transparency with every job offer. We take the guesswork out of blended rates and make sure that our nurses know exactly what’s included, both taxable and non-taxable.

We offer the highest pay in the industry which includes an impressive benefits package, bonuses, and more.

For more information or to browse our listings, create your free profile or check out our website today.  




They’re Not All “Blended” the Same Way

Every agency is different, which means travel nurses must do the work when determining what’s included — and what’s not included — in the rate on the job posting. 

In most cases, a travel nurse should be able to receive an itemized breakdown of the hourly rate from the recruiter before signing a contract.


Taxable vs. Non-Taxable Pay

It’s also important to remember that a blended rate can include both taxable and non-taxable benefits. It’s important to understand which items are taxable (base pay, meal and housing stipends paid in cash, etc.) to know what to expect come tax time.

You won’t pay taxes on your medical benefits, so you should deduct that amount from your overall pay before calculating your tax rate.


The Concept Is Rarely Practiced in Permanent Employment

You won’t see this practice in a permanent nursing position, so it can be alarming if you’re just starting as a travel nurse.

Normally, your hourly or salary rate is posted, and additional benefits are itemized as “perks” in addition to the hourly wage.

However, permanent nursing positions don’t include lodging or meal stipends, making these expenses the responsibility of the nurse.


3 Reasons Agencies Use a Blended Rate in Travel Nurse Contracts

So why do agencies decide to use a blended-rate travel nurse contract instead of a typical nursing contract?


#1: Blended Rates Are More Simple To Quote

It’s easier and can appear more attractive. 

Rather than posting a job at $24/hr — plus housing, meals, incidentals, travel, medical, etc. — agencies can simply quote an inclusive offer of $51/hr and expect that, at the very least, a seasoned travel nurse will know that it’s a blended rate.


#2: Blended Rates Can Make It Easier To Compare Job Offers

Recruiters want travel nurses to have an “apples-to-apples” comparison when job hunting. 

If Company A’s offer includes …

  • Medical benefits 
  • License reimbursement; and 
  • Travel stipends 

… they will want to reflect that in their hourly rate — especially if Company B does not offer these benefits.

Or, if Company A posts a blended rate of $51/hr, while Company B posts an hourly rate of $24/hr plus stipends and benefits, then it’s up to the travel nurse to try and calculate the value of the stipends and benefits before they can make a fair comparison between the postings.


#3: Blended Rates Are Widely Offered in the Travel Nursing Industry

Quite simply, blended rates are commonplace in the travel nursing industry. It’s a matter of “everyone else is doing it,” so it makes sense for recruiters to use this method when posting positions.


travel nurse blended rate


Tips To Help You Understand Your Next Blended Rate Quote

These tips will help you understand your next blended-rate travel nurse contract and plan for success:

  1. Ask your recruiter to break down your pay into taxable and non-taxable amounts.
  2. Make sure you know what your base hourly rate is.
  3. Remember to put money aside to budget for the downtime between assignments, as travel nurses don’t typically get vacation pay.
  4. Travel reimbursements are usually lump-sum amounts and might not cover a cross-country move.
  5. Find out if your travel nurse agency pays for certifications such as BLS or ACLS.
  6. Ask if your travel nurse agency reimburses your annual physical and TB tests.
  7. Hire a tax accountant that specializes in travel nursing.


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Here To Help Our Nurses Fully Understand Their Compensation Package 

The recruiters at Trusted Nurse Staffing are the best in the business. We work alongside our travel nurses, offering 24/7 support, so if you happen to have a question during your night shift, you can reach us.

Learning the ins and outs of blended-rate travel nurse contracts can seem tricky at first, but we are here to help you understand exactly how each contract breaks down and what it means come tax time.

We ensure total transparency — so you never have to wonder if you’re making the right decision before signing any contract. The last thing we want is unhappy nurses on assignment.

For top-quality care, communication, and support, choose Trusted Nurse Staffing.