If you work hard for your money (cue Donna Summer’s song), you may wonder how much money you can make working overtime as a travel nurse — and if the hours are worth it.
But working overtime as a travel nurse isn’t as straightforward as working for a full-time company employee.
Contracts can be confusing, and you may find yourself with the short end of the stick after working tireless overtime hours.
Fortunately, we’re here to set the record straight about travel nurse overtime pay and how you can get the most for your hardworking hours.
Table of Contents
- Can Travel Nurses Make Overtime?
- Why Overtime Isn’t Always Calculated at 1.5x Your Hourly Rate
- How Is Overtime Calculated for Travel Nurses?
- Can You Work Overtime as a Travel Nurse if You Work Part-time?
- Is It Worth It To Work Overtime as a Travel Nurse?
- Trusted Nurse Staffing Works With Nurses To Negotiate the Best Possible Overtime Rates
Can Travel Nurses Make Overtime?
The short answer is –– yes.
But it might not be not as much as you would expect due to “taxable earnings” versus “non-taxable earnings.”
To avoid a disappointing surprise, it’s important to distinguish some terms and negotiate in advance.
Why Overtime for Travel Nurses Isn’t Always Calculated at 1.5x Your Hourly Rate
Travel nurse staffing agencies make agreements with each hospital to determine what the billable rates will be.
Since bill rates are pre-determined between the staffing agency and the hospital, hospitals often take advantage of negotiating these terms.
Hospitals know that travel nurses have a lot of non-taxable benefits rolled into their pay — and they can use this knowledge to negotiate to pay the agency a lower bill rate.
That’s why it’s important to understand your contract completely and know which rate your overtime pay will be based upon before signing.
Don’t get caught with less than favorable overtime pay.
With Trusted Nurse Staffing, there’s no need to armor up for an awkward negotiation. You can rest assured we pay the highest rates in the industry.
Relieved to have that off your plate?
Find your next dream travel nurse assignment with Pronto.
Understanding Contract Lingo
Understanding the terms in your contract and how they differ can help you determine how to negotiate and get what you need from your recruiter.
If you’re a travel nurse and you find yourself picking up extra shifts often or want to in the future, pay close attention.
The state you work in mandates when overtime must be paid and what the minimum overtime pay rate must be.
Overtime can be qualified as over a certain number of hours per week or per day.
In most states, the threshold is 40 hours per week and eight hours per day.
Overtime hours are typically counted in your contracted hours.
Agencies use compensation calculators to factor in overtime hours beforehand to determine the pay package for the assignment.
Extra time is hours worked that exceed the travel nurse’s contracted hours.
Some extra hours might also be classified as overtime hours. However, the key distinction is the number of contracted hours.
Your contracted hours are used by the agency to calculate the pay package for the assignment — including your tax-free stipends and their fixed costs.
Once contracted hours are worked, the money from extra time worked is unappropriated.
Extra time is a great place in the contract for travel nurses to negotiate as staffing agencies can choose to pay it to the nurse as an “extra time pay rate” or additional bonus.
The blended rate is calculated by combining your hourly taxable rate with your non-taxable stipends and reimbursements.
For example, if you’re offered a 13-week assignment with a …
- Taxable base rate of $20 per hour
- 36-hour per week guarantee
- $250 per week non-taxable stipend for meals and incidentals
- $2,000 per month non-taxable stipend for lodging; and
- $500 non-taxable travel reimbursement
… you calculate your blended rate by breaking down your non-taxable stipends into an hourly rate and adding it to your taxable base rate like this:
- Multiply $250 per week for meals by 13 weeks = $3,250
- Multiply $2,000 per month for lodging by 3 months = $6,000
- Add the $500 one-time travel reimbursement
- Total non-taxable stipend pay = $9,750
- Multiply the 36 weekly guaranteed hours by 13 total weeks
- Total hours = 468 hours
- Divide total non-taxable stipend pay by total hours
- Non-taxable stipend pay per hour = $20.83
- Add the $20 per hour taxable base pay rate
- Total blended rate = $40.83 per hour
As you can see, calculating your blended rate can be used to give you a higher hourly rate — which can come in handy when discussing what your overtime rate will be based on.
The bill rate is the amount of money a hospital pays the staffing agency for each hour the travel nurse has worked.
The bill rate is divided between the agency and the travel nurse.
How Is Overtime Calculated for Travel Nurses?
Overtime can be calculated differently depending on how you’ve negotiated your contract.
To understand the different ways to negotiate your overtime, let’s take a deeper look at your effective and secondary rates.
Calculate Your Effective Tax Rate
Your effective tax rate refers to the average percentage of tax you pay based on earned income.
Your effective tax rate can help you to project your actual tax liability for the year.
To calculate your effective tax rate, divide your total tax liability by your annual taxable income.
You can use your effective tax rate marker to help you understand how to negotiate your overtime rate.
An agency may not be able to pay you time and a half of your effective tax rate because this is likely higher than the actual bill rate — but it may serve as a good place to start.
Negotiate Your Secondary Rate
If there is a gap between the number of guaranteed hours in your contract and the state-mandated overtime threshold, the taxable hourly rate for those hours is your secondary rate.
For example, if you have 36 hours guaranteed each week and the threshold for overtime is 40 hours, your hourly rate for hours 36 through 40 is considered your secondary rate.
Did you know that you can negotiate a rate different from your base for those secondary hours?
You sure can!
Can You Work Overtime as a Travel Nurse if You Work Part-time?
If you are a part-time travel nurse, it is still possible for you to work overtime.
Keep in mind if you’re only contracted to work part-time hours, hours over contracted hours until you hit the overtime threshold are considered extra time.
So you will have to work extra time to get to the state-mandated maximum weekly hours before you can start earning overtime.
Is It Worth It To Work Overtime as a Travel Nurse?
There are as many reasons why some nurses love working overtime as there are reasons to avoid it.
Only you can determine if working overtime is worth your time based on your:
- Goals; and
Could working overtime cause unnecessary strain on your life?
Or have you scouted a specific location based on the opportunity to rack up some extra cash?
If you’re still unsure if working overtime will be worth it for you, here are a few advantages and disadvantages to consider.
3 Advantages of Working Overtime
#1: The Extra Money
If you’re planning to work overtime, you’ve likely considered the extra money you can make with the right overtime rate.
Keep in mind the extra earning potential can vary largely on the location of your assignment.
An eight-week assignment in a state that’s known for high overtime pay with a great secondary rate for overtime can result in a pretty penny at the end of the day.
#2: Filling Staff Shortages
According to a survey, the national average turnover rate depending on geographic location and nursing specialty are between 8.8% and 37.0%.
The United States (US) Department of Labor projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030.
Employment opportunities for nurses will continue to grow at a faster rate than all other occupations through 2026.
If you’re a travel nurse, the staff shortages in nursing don’t come as a surprise to you. You may have even found your dream job due to a staff shortage.
It’s a win-win when filling staff shortages may otherwise result in a lack of patient care.
#3: Your Reputation
Are you looking to build your reputation and get recognition for your hard work to advance your career?
Working overtime can often get you noticed by hospital supervisors.
Going above and beyond the call of duty can be a great way to earn:
- Contract extensions; or
- Permanent employment
3 Disadvantages of Working Overtime
#1: Potential Burnout
If you’re a nurse and you haven’t heard of nurse burnout, you likely protect your personal time and aren’t looking to work a lot of overtime anyway.
Still, according to a 2021 survey conducted by Nursing Continuing Education Central, 95% of nurses in the U.S. who participated in the study reported feeling burnt out and a staggering 2.7 million nurses across America have experienced burnout.
Burnout and fatigue are the number one cause of the global nursing shortage.
The best way to avoid burnout is not to bite off more hours than you can chew.
Set intentional boundaries around your free time and leave your work at the door.
#2: Missing Out
Sometimes it’s not just about the money.
Many travel nurses choose this career because they get to:
- See new places
- Meet new people; and
- Try new things
But if you’re working so much that you don’t have enough time, you may begin to resent your career choice.
Leave room in your schedule to take advantage of the opportunities a career in travel nursing affords you.
#3: More Exposure to Illness
The more time you spend at the hospital, the more exposure you will have to communicable illnesses.
It’s important to keep this in mind as you load up on overtime and put extra strain on your body.
Take advantage of the free time you do have to:
- Practice self-care
- Nurture your immune system; and
- Get plenty of sleep
Rest is critical for nurses, so check in with your body before taking on too many hours.
Trusted Nurse Staffing Works With Nurses To Negotiate the Best Possible Overtime Rates
At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we approach every contract as a partnership with our nurses. That’s why we do our best to negotiate the best possible bill rates with hospitals.
The recruiters at Trusted Nurse Staffing are the best in the business.
We work alongside our travel nurses, offering 24/7 support. So even if you have a question about your overtime pay during your night shift, you can reach us.
We are here to help you understand exactly how your contract breaks down and what to expect come tax time — so you never have to second-guess before signing any contract.
Get started by searching for the best travel nursing jobs on Pronto.
For top-quality care, communication, and support, choose Trusted Nurse Staffing.