2, 8, 26: Which Travel Nurse Contract Is Right For You?

Travel nursing is one of the most exciting career options in the healthcare industry. When you’re starting your journey in travel nursing or just exploring the idea of becoming a travel nurse, there’s so much to learn! You’ll be able to explore different regions, partake in new experiences, and fall deeper in love with nursing as you progress. Travel advocates play a vital role in finding jobs that meet your preferences, but it may take some trial and error to figure out what you like best in a travel nursing assignment and where you want to go.

If you’re a new traveler, you’re probably trying to decide what travel nurse assignment length is the right fit for you or what options you even have (there are plenty of choices). The range spans from two-week travel nurse assignments to 26 weeks—the choice is yours to decide. If you’re not sure about shorter or longer contracts, we got your back!

Below, we’ll explain the standard, short, and long assignment lengths so you’ll be ready to travel the world in no time.

The Standard Travel Nurse Contract

Earlier, we mentioned the range of assignment lengths, but the most standard travel nurse contract is for 13 weeks. Most facilities prefer this length as it is just long enough to get you acclimated to the position but not so long that you’re considered permanent. While this is the standard, the shifts you work and the number of hours can vary significantly from one travel nurse assignment to the next. Whether it’s how many hours per week, nights, days, or evenings, every assignment comes with its unique shift specifications.

There are many reasons most travel nurse contracts are 13 weeks, one being the onboarding periods for new nurses. Onboarding can take anywhere from four to 12 weeks, while travel nurses only receive one week before hitting the floor. This means they can provide coverage as new, permanent nurses and staff familiarize themselves with their new environment. Additionally, with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) providing employees with as much as 12 weeks of leave, travel nurses who take on a 13-week contract can adequately cover those periods of leaves of absence.

Short Travel Nurse Contracts
It is possible to get shorter travel nurse contracts of four, six, and even two weeks in certain circumstances. If a hospital has someone out on short-term disability, for example, they may need a temporary nurse for just a short amount of time. Vacation rental services like Airbnb and Vrbo allow travelers to arrange their own housing without being tied down to 13-week apartment contracts or other accommodations. While they’re not as frequent as standard contracts, shorter assignments occasionally become available. If you’re interested in trying shorter travel assignments, be sure to bring it up to your advocate. Put it on their radar early so they know to keep an eye out for these unique opportunities.

Short travel nurse assignments can be ideal for nurses who love to be constantly on the go, exploring new places, and meeting new people. There are two types of assignments to know if you want shorter contracts:

  • Rapid response travel nurse assignments: Nurses can start in two days to two weeks for shorter-term, high-intensity contracts and earn significantly more than travel nurses in standard 13-week assignments. This was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Strike travel nurse assignments: Nurses are typically there for only a few days or weeks. Their purpose is to provide temporary relief staffing in times of labor disputes.

Long Travel Nurse Contracts
For travel nurses who like the experience of having more time to settle into a new place and more slowly develop personal and professional relationships, long-term travel nurse assignments can be ideal. In some cases, longer assignments—six months or more—may be available right from the beginning.

Depending on your track record and the strength of the relationships you’ve built, travel nurses can often extend their contract with their travel nurse agency if they love their destination. Extensions can range from three to six months, and you can extend multiple times. This is why it’s always a great option to stick to the standard 13 weeks first. If you love it, you can always extend your time. If it’s not your favorite place, you can move on at the end of your contract.

There are many ways to live your best life as a travel nurse and continuously build your career. It’s important to consider all options and what assignment length is best for your particular situation. Different lengths may work during different times throughout your career, so it’s okay to be flexible and try them all!

If you know what you want and are ready to head out, take a look at our travel nurse jobs for available positions. Happy traveling!

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