Guaranteed Hours: Travel Nurse Policies To Understand - Trusted Nurse Staffing 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

If you’ve been around the world of travel nursing for any time at all, you’ve probably heard about “guaranteed hours”.

Sounds easy enough to understand, right?

The fact is that, in travel nursing, the term “guaranteed hours” isn’t as cut and dried as it may seem. 

In this article, we’ll dive into what guaranteed hours are — and are not — and look at four types of policies that guarantee hours, so you can feel confident and in the know before signing your next contract. 


travel nurse guaranteed hours


Table of Contents



Common Misconceptions of the Meaning of ‘Guaranteed Hours’ in Travel Nursing

“Guaranteed hours” may or may not be a part of your travel nursing contract. 

But many travelers don’t realize this.

Often, travel nurses interpret guaranteed hours to mean they are guaranteed pay:

  • For their contracted hours no matter what, even when there is a low census.
  • For their contracted hours, as long as they don’t call in sick or otherwise miss a scheduled day of work. 
  • As a benefit provided by their agency to cover their financial needs and help them support themselves while away from home base. 


Actual Definition of ‘Guaranteed Hours’

At the most basic level, “guaranteed hours” are what the hospital and the agency agree to as a minimum number of hours that will be paid for a contract. 

How this agreement extends to the traveling nurse depends on the details of their contract with their agency.

In general, however, it works like this. If a travel nurse signs a standard 13-week travel nursing contract that guarantees they will be paid for 36 hours each week (468 hours total), but the hospital schedules them for fewer hours, they should still get paid for the difference.

In some cases, the agency may extend the guaranteed hours clause or policy in their contract (or have their own version of “guaranteed hours”) with the travel nurse who accepts a placement through their agency.


travel nurse guaranteed hours


Who Is Protected by Guaranteed Hours Policies?

Guaranteed hours for travel nurses are determined by the contract between the hospital and the travel nursing company and exist to protect both the company and the travel nurse.

The traveling agency provides a service to the medical facility, relying on the agreed-upon hours being worked to cover the numerous costs that are involved in the assignment, such as: 

  • Recruiting expenses
  • Their nurses’ travel expenses to move to the location
  • Stipends; and
  • Housing costs while their nurses are on assignment. 

Since the agency is responsible for covering those costs, they need to be able to bill the medical facility for those hours. But if for some reason the nurse does not work the contracted hours, the agency won’t get that money and neither will the nurse. In this way, a guaranteed hours policy covers both parties.


Is There Always a Guaranteed Hours Policy in the Agency-Traveler Contract?

Not necessarily. 

Instead of guaranteeing hours, some agencies may choose to offer a higher rate of pay instead. 

While the wording in an agency’s contract with the facility may reflect one thing, the benefit they are actually providing to the travel nurse may not reflect word for word the terms of the agency-hospital contract. 

Some agencies may repackage the hours “guarantee,” and occasionally may even provide the travel nurse with a benefit that exceeds the one the facility is giving them — which can result in a financial hit to the agency. That’s why paying attention to the details of your agreements is critical.

Are you thinking of hitting the road as a travel nurse? Look no further than Trusted Nurse Staffing.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is a small, personal company, and we know our nurses by name. We work closely with you to ensure that you understand the details of each assignment, including the guaranteed hours policies.

We realize that you are more than a number, and we strive to help you find the perfect assignment for your skills, talents, and dreams. 

Find your dream travel nurse assignment on the Trusted Nurse Staffing Pronto app today!


travel nurse block scheduling


4 Common Types of Policies That Guarantee Hours in the Travel Nurse Industry

Guaranteed hours policies vary from hospital to hospital and agency to agency, so you shouldn’t assume that the policy is going to be the same at each new assignment.

While guaranteed hours policies aren’t always cut and dried, there are 4 common policies to look for: 

  1. Every hour guaranteed
  2. Canceled shift
  3. Future shift
  4. Floating


#1: Every Hour Guaranteed Policies

With an every hour guaranteed policy, the traveler is guaranteed all their hours — even if a facility cancels shifts due to low census. 

Hours are not guaranteed, however, for calling in sick or voluntarily deciding to end a contract.


#2: Canceled Shift Policies

Some policies allow hospitals or facilities to cancel a certain number of shifts. 

Depending on the hospital or facility, they may be able to cancel up to 3 shifts within a 13-week period, sometimes more.


#3: Future Shift Policies

You may encounter a policy that allows facilities to cancel shifts as long as they offer a future shift replacement. 

If the traveler declines the future shift, the hospital is not required to guarantee payment for those hours.


#4: Floating Policies

Some hospitals may guarantee hours only when they are allowed to “float” the travel nurse between multiple units or medical facilities. 

Nurses may encounter unit floating or facility floating.


Unit Floating

In unit floating, the traveling nurse must be willing to float to other units within their scope of practice to get the guaranteed hours.

The assigned float units should have a similar patient population and skill set to the one where the travel nurse is already working. For example, surgical to surgical, ICU to ICU, telemetry to telemetry, or pediatric general care to pediatric general care.


Facility Floating

Sometimes hospitals require their traveling nurses to float as needed between hospitals to get their guaranteed hours in.

For example, four hospitals within one metropolitan area are all part of the same hospital organization. If the census is low at one of the hospitals, they have the option of scheduling the nurse at another of their hospitals to make sure the guaranteed hours are fulfilled.


travel nurse block scheduling


Things To Keep In Mind Regarding Guaranteed Hours

As you’re considering guaranteed hours as a travel nurse, there are a few things you will want to keep at the forefront of your mind, including: 

  • Guaranteed hours policies may vary, depending on what part of the country you are working in.
  • A facility’s guaranteed hours policies may change seasonally. For example, a traveling nurse may work at the same hospital in the summer and fall on two different contracts, with two different guaranteed hours policies.
  • Guaranteed hours policies can change within the same travel nursing agency since the policies depend on a unique agreement with each facility. This means that guaranteed hours may be different with each new contract within the same travel agency.

The bottom line is to always read the fine print and make sure the guaranteed hours policy is in writing.


Make Sure You Understand Your Guaranteed Hours Policy

It is always important to read and understand your travel nurse contract — including the guaranteed hours policy — so you’re not met with any surprises while you are on assignment. 

And if there’s something you are not quite sure about, don’t hesitate to ask questions of your facility or agency recruiter for clarification. 


Questions To Ask Your Recruiter or Facility

As a travel nurse, you want to be proactive when it comes to protecting your pay while you’re on the road. 

To be on the safe side, get the answers to these questions (in writing) about guaranteed hours as you evaluate and consider your agency and contract:

  • How is guaranteed pay applied? Is it biweekly, monthly, or length of the contract?
  • Are you guaranteed a specific amount on each paycheck even if a shift gets canceled?
  • Are you paid regularly each pay period, or do you have to wait until your assignment is over to receive a check?
  • Does the facility’s or agency’s guaranteed pay policy change seasonally?
  • How does a low census situation impact your pay?
  • What happens to your guaranteed hours if you have to call in sick?
  • How many shifts in a time period is the facility permitted to cancel, and what is the call-off policy?
  • What is your obligation for make-up shifts?
  • Is floating required to secure your guaranteed hours? If so, how far might you need to travel?
  • How does a low census or missing shifts for other reasons impact potential bonuses in your pay package?
  • How does the number of hours of work affect your stipends?


guaranteed hours travel nursing


Work With an Agency That Will Always Value Your Best Interests: Trusted Nurse Staffing

Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to support you all along the way — from hiring throughout each and every assignment. 

With the highest pay rates in the industry and a passion for caring for our nurses, Trusted Nurse Staffing is the agency that has your back. 

We’re proud to offer our nurses the best benefits in the business, including:

  • Housing, travel, and meal stipends 
  • Weekly paychecks
  • Health insurance and disability insurance
  • Sign-on and completion bonuses
  • 401(k) with a 4% match
  • Loyalty rewards
  • Referral bonuses
  • 24/7 access to your recruiter 

If you want to work with a travel nursing company that values and supports you, Trusted Nurse Staffing is for you. 

Find available travel nursing jobs on Pronto.


travel nurse block scheduling