10 Tips on How To Negotiate Travel Nurse Pay and Other Bonuses 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

You’re staring at your travel nurse contract but aren’t excited about what you see. You’d like to change a few things but don’t know if that is acceptable. 

You start worrying; your palms begin sweating and you decide to sign it. 

Stop right there. 

In your quest to become a travel nurse, you may have thought you would likely have to accept whatever contract your travel nursing agency offers. That’s simply not true. 

You can negotiate your travel nurse contract, but having a little knowledge and forethought is essential. 

Here are the top things to know when negotiating travel nurse contracts and some tips and tricks to help you as you negotiate.


travel nurse contract negotiation


Table of Contents



Negotiation Prep: 4 Questions To Ask Before Signing a Travel Nursing Contract

To negotiate a successful travel nurse contract, it’s essential to learn: 

  • What travel nurse contracts include
  • Why negotiations are necessary
  • When to begin negotiations; and
  • What can be negotiated

Let’s take a closer look at four questions to ask yourself before negotiating your travel nurse contract. 


#1: What Is a Travel Nurse Contract and What Does It Include?

A travel nurse contract is a legally binding contract between a nurse and a travel nurse agency. 

 Among the contract’s terms and conditions are the nurse’s: 

Before signing the contract, travel nurses should: 

  • Carefully review it
  • Ask questions if anything is unclear; and 
  • Fully understand the terms and conditions


#2: Why Is Negotiating Your Travel Nurse Contract Important?

Negotiating is extremely important for travel nurses for several reasons. 

The first benefit of negotiating salary is that you often get paid more. Who wouldn’t like to bring home a little more money on payday? 

The second reason for negotiating travel nursing salaries is that bill rates vary dramatically between jobs. Even though the same jobs are performed at the same hospitals, varying bill rates can occur.

Finally, travel nurses sign contracts with a variety of clauses, and negotiation can be used to get better benefits from these clauses. 

Some of the most common contract clauses include: 

  • Guaranteed hours 
  • Missed shift penalty
  • Cancellation penalty; and 
  • Non-compete


#3: When Should You Start Travel Nurse Contract Negotiation?

Negotiations are usually thought to occur at a certain point during the process. Most jobseekers believe that after a few conversations, the recruiter: 

  • Discusses some job openings
  • Quotes some packages; and 
  • Negotiations begin

Although this is one approach to negotiating, it is not the best. It is better to begin negotiating travel nurse contracts with a prospective employer before meeting them. 

Feel free to ask your recruiter about: 

  • Compensation offered
  • Number of interviews you will attend
  • Type of contract you will sign; and
  • Whether the agency will pay for housing and relocation

If you aren’t happy with the answers to these questions, negotiate. 


#4: What Parts of a Travel Nurse Contract Can Be Negotiated?

Some of the most common negotiation points include: 

  • Salary: Pro tip: Ask your recruiter for the lowest base pay possible since this portion of your salary will be taxed.
  • Stipends: Your untaxed pay is where you make money. Housing and food are often included in stipends, known as “per diems.” Since you are an employee of the company working for a short period at another location, you will receive tax-free benefits. 
  • Housing: Sometimes, this is a huge deciding factor. Going to a beach or mountain location? You may want to consider whether the contract location is close to the sights or a specific neighborhood. 
  • Overtime: The importance of this will depend on the lifestyle you choose as a travel nurse. Overtime won’t matter much if you just want to work 36 hours and enjoy exploring your world. On the other hand, this is an important point to negotiate if you are planning on earning some extra money. 
  • Licensing Reimbursement: Your agency will often reimburse you for costs if you apply for a multi-state license. In some states, these costs can be high. If you incur licensing costs, ask your agency to reimburse you.

Looking for a travel nurse agency that puts your needs first? Look no further than Trusted Nurse Staffing. 

Our team will get to know you and your wants and needs. We will happily handle negotiations and find you the best travel nurse assignment. 

What are you waiting for? Using Pronto, you can search for jobs and find the perfect match for your lifestyle.


travel nursing contract tips


10 Travel Nurse Contract Tips for Successful Negotiation


#1: Know Your ‘True’ Rate of Pay

Negotiating your travel nurse salary requires an understanding of how you and your agency are paid. 

Before breaking down your travel nursing pay, you are paid based on your agency’s contract with each facility. This contract contains a set number so no negotiation can occur directly with the hospital. 

Your agency breaks down the dollar amount you are paid into your: 

As a result, most agencies will combine the hourly rate with non-taxable items into a “blended” rate. To determine your pay, the blended rate can be calculated by dividing your non-taxable stipends by an hourly rate and adding it to your taxable base rate.


#2: Promote Your Value

Your value as a travel nurse is one of your most vital negotiating points. 

You are more likely to get a travel nurse contract you are happy with if your recruiter can demonstrate your value to the hospital or clinic. 

To promote your value, do not be shy about sharing your strengths. For example: 

  • Your work attendance is impeccable. You arrive on time and never leave early. If a shift must be missed, it is reported as far in advance and made up as soon as possible.
  • The work you do is done thoroughly and promptly.
  • Extra shifts are fine if you get a reasonable rate of pay.
  • You are prompt in reporting your time and never make hospital staff hunt you down for your time cards. 


#3: Obtain Specialty Certifications

Obtaining specialty certifications as a travel nurse can significantly increase your pay because these certifications demonstrate your expertise in a specific nursing area and make you a more valuable asset to healthcare facilities. 

With the right certifications, you become more attractive to healthcare facilities that need specialized skills. Often, facilities seek out nurses with skills such as:

  • CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse)
  • CPN (Certified Pediatric Nurse)
  • CMSRN (Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse)
  • And others

Popular specialty certifications can open doors to a wider range of assignments in various healthcare settings. You may also have the opportunity to work in highly sought-after locations or prestigious facilities where pay rates are often higher.

Some travel nursing agencies, like Trusted Nurse Staffing, will even reimburse you for achieving these specialties.


#4: Be Flexible

Contract negotiations are just that: negotiations. Giving and taking are involved, as well as collaboration and flexibility.

As you work on an agreement with your travel staffing agency, remember that you and the agency are a team, and you both want what’s best for you and the hospital or clinic you will be assigned to. 


#5: Compare Blended Rates of Different Agencies

An excellent way to negotiate your salary is to compare the pay of one agency with that of another.

Agency A may offer a blended rate of $35/hr, while Agency B may offer a blended rate of $39/hr. It may be possible to ask agency A if they can match agency B’s $39/hour price if they are the company you wish to work with. 


tips to negotiate a travel nurse contract


#6: Ask About Reimbursements and Benefits

To get the complete picture of your salary, it is essential to understand all the “extras” that come with your contract. Some jobs may not pay the highest salary but offer compensation, such as:

  • Reimbursements
  • Benefits; and 
  • Stipends 

The cost of hiring new nurses is high, so many agencies provide reimbursements for things that help keep their current nurses happy, including:

  • Subway passes
  • Licensing fees; and
  • Healthcare benefits


#7: Explore Extension Bonus Options

When considering extending your current job, find out your options. 

Some hospitals and clinics offer bonuses to employees who extend their contracts, while others don’t. Many times there is no additional money involved; sometimes, it is just a few weeks off. You might be surprised at how much this could affect your decision.

While it’s rare to negotiate a higher pay rate should you accept an extension, it’s still possible to increase your overall salary for that assignment in other ways.

It costs less money for both the agency and facility if you choose to extend. They spend less on: 

  • Administrative man-hours
  • Billable orientation hours 
  • Travel stipends; and 
  • Compliance and credentialing costs

With this in mind, you may be able to negotiate an extension sign-on or completion bonus. 

Also, be aware of stipend gimmicks. For example, if your travel stipend totals $800, but you are to be paid $400 at the start of your contract and the additional $400 at the end of the contract, this should be paid after your first assignment is completed — not at the end of your extension. 

You may be able to negotiate an additional $800 in travel stipends or cash as a part of your extension contract.

If you think you may stay somewhere for a while, asking your recruiter if that particular hospital or clinic offers extension bonuses would be a good idea.


#8: Be Specific

In negotiations, taking a hard-line position and demanding more money per unit of work isn’t always the best course of action. While standing up for yourself may feel good, it doesn’t always achieve what you want.

Salary negotiations are no different. You could come across as unprofessional if you approach your recruiter or potential boss with a list of demands.

Instead, try approaching the conversation differently. Let your recruiter or potential boss know why you deserve more, followed by what you are looking for.


#9: Don’t Reveal Your Bottom Line

Negotiators often advise sticking to your bottom line. However, the problem is that this can be ineffective when negotiating travel nurse contracts.

For example, if you don’t have another opportunity, you might pass on an assignment that doesn’t fit your financial bottom line, but now you are left with a $0 salary. 

Be aware you will be asked about your bottom line by many recruiters. As a result, you may be offered contracts below your bottom line, but you won’t be consistently offered contracts right at your bottom line. 

Hold yourself to the line of what you need to make your travel nursing jobs tenable.


#10: Know It’s Okay To Say No

The first offer you receive can be tempting, especially when you are just starting out. However, that offer may not be suitable for you, either financially or otherwise.

For instance, a travel nurse contract would not be ideal if the cost of transportation overshadows your earnings once you arrive at the location.

Additionally, you might not want to take the job if the pay isn’t commensurate with your experience and what it entails. 

Advocate for yourself and your needs, and don’t take on travel nurse contracts that don’t fit you.


how to negotiate a travel nurse contract


Is Negotiating Travel Nurse Contracts Possible With All Agencies?

While some agencies will offer their best pay rate right out of the gate, it doesn’t mean that you have to accept the first position that comes along. Remember, in addition to the agency’s set rates, pay varies based on a few factors, such as:

  • Location
  • Specialty
  • Shift
  • Facility
  • Etc.

With the ongoing demand for nurses, it is still possible to hold out for the travel nursing position that checks all your boxes. But, keep in mind that pay isn’t the only aspect of negotiating travel nurse contracts. You can also negotiate other benefits and reimbursements as part of your overall compensation plan.


Still Struggling To Make What You Want? Try These 3 Alternatives To Negotiating a Contract


#1: Look for Signing Bonuses

Some agencies will offer a signing bonus when you join the agency, while some healthcare facilities offer bonuses when you accept an assignment. 

If the pay you’re aiming for isn’t exactly where you want it to be, these bonuses can add up to a pretty big bump in overall salary over multiple assignments per year.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some hospitals were offering $40,000 signing bonuses just to get nurses through the door. While this isn’t typical, if you look for positions where the need for nurses is especially dire, you might see an increase in both your pay rate and your signing bonus.


#2: Refer Your Friends

A large part of nursing is collaborating with fellow nurses. From nursing school to your first position and as you progress in your career, you’ll meet dozens, sometimes hundreds of other nurses — some of whom may be looking for a little adventure or a change of scenery.

Some agencies will pay you for your referrals. That means that every time you travel on assignment and the nurses on staff start asking you how they can become travel nurses, that’s a potential payday.

Don’t be afraid to share your travel stories!


#3: Consider Crisis Assignments

We already mentioned how substantial the signing bonuses were during the pandemic crisis, but did you know that crisis assignments pay more too?

If you thrive in fast-paced environments, learn quickly, and can act fast on your feet, then crisis travel nursing might be your jam.

Crisis travel nursing may include:

  • Census spikes
  • Nursing strikes
  • Natural disasters
  • EMR upgrade
  • Viral outbreaks

During a crisis, healthcare facilities may be scrambling to effectively treat patients. Travel nurses are there to save the day with their flexibility and ability to respond quickly (usually within two weeks) to the need.


Negotiating Travel Nurse Contracts Is Easy With Trusted Nurse Staffing

You can depend on Trusted Nurse Staffing to find you the right position and to guide you through the negotiation process. 

With Trusted Nurse Staffing, you’re in good hands. We strive to deliver exceptional customer service and a personal experience at every step. 

We don’t treat you like just another number when you work with us. Our accessibility sets us apart from other staffing agencies, and we promise to be there whenever you need us. 

Contact us today, and let us tackle negotiations for you. 


travel nursing contract tips