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 contract 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.
Types of Travel Nurse Contracts
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 healthcare 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 nursing 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 options 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 a short period of time such as a few days or weeks. Their purpose is to provide temporary relief staffing shortages 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 travel nurse contract.
The One- Year Limit Rule
If you do plan on extending your contract there’s a couple of rules you should be aware of. According to the National Travel Nurse Association, many travel nurses are forced to move around every few months due to low wages. As a result, many travel nurses end up living in several different states within a single calendar year. But the IRS doesn’t see it that way.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, travel nurses shouldn’t spend more than 365 days in any given state. If they exceed this amount, they lose their travel nursing status and become subject to income taxes. In addition, if they continue to work in a particular state longer than a year, they could fall into a trap that ends up costing them thousands of dollars.
Should Your Assignment Expire
If you’re thinking about taking advantage of the one-year rule, here’s what you need to know. First off, you cannot extend your assignment more than once without losing your travel nursing status. So, if you already extended your assignment once, you won’t be able to extend again.
You might think that since you’ve been working in the same place for awhile now, you should be exempt from the one-year rule. However, this isn’t always true. For example, if you worked in California for three years, and then moved to Texas, you wouldn’t be allowed to extend your assignment in California anymore.
But even if you’ve never spent more than a year in a specific state, you still need to consider whether it’s worth it to keep working there. After all, you’ll likely face a significant decrease in pay. Plus, you’ll no longer qualify for certain non-taxable benefits.
Choosing a Travel Nurse Agency Fit For Your Needs
Travel nurses often wonder how do they find the right travel nursing agency. There are many different options when it comes to finding a job, especially one where you spend months away from home. You don’t want to waste your time interviewing with agencies that aren’t hiring.
The good news is that there are three characteristics that every reputable agency has in common. These are warning signs telling you that you should run the other way.
1. They Pay Top Dollar
Your salary is probably the most important factor when deciding whether or not to work as a travel nurse. Make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve. You’ll want to do some research to find out how much the hourly rate is in that state and begin negotiations from there.
2. They Offer Personal Support
When you work around the country, you won’t be able to rely on friends and family for help. This is why having a reliable source of support is essential. A travel nurse agency that cares about your needs will offer personal support such as a travel travel nurse recruiter. This recruiter will be there advising, educating, and mentoring the travel nurse every step of the way.
3. They Have An Active Job Board
Having an active job board shows you that the agency is continuously working towards providing new positions for travel nurses. An inactive agency shows that they are not actively seeking candidates and probably have no work available at the moment.
Explore Nurse First Job Openings
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!