If you were to take a surface approach and look at travel nursing, it seems pretty easy, right? You’re a nurse, you get to travel around, you get new experiences, and on top of that, enjoy the bonuses that come with it, such as free housing, weekly stipends, learning skills, etc.
In reality, however, it’s much more complex than that. Taxes differ from state to state. Onboarding processes differ from agency to agency, depending on who you’re working with. Moreover, the misguided information out there is problematic. Facts and myths happen so often that we don’t even have time to sift out the truth from mere lies.
Now, you might be wondering, if it’s that good of a career path, why do so many nurses reserve themselves to regular staff nursing jobs? Well, it’s mainly because with the rise in the travel nursing community, misconceptions easily circle around.
Don’t fret because we have brought you a list of 9 myths and fibs that we’ve tried to debunk. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Here are 9 Myths that we’ve attempted to Debunk
Myth #1: Travel nurses qualify for tax-free money
One of the most common myths that all travel nurses have at least once heard in their career is the fact that to reap the benefits of tax-free money, you need to be within a 50-mile radius of your registered tax residency. And while that’s not completely false, the notion that a travel nurse’s entire income is untaxed is indeed a myth. The only part you get untaxed is your hourly rate, i-e, your stipends.
Other than that, whatever you earn is very much taxable, including the contracts taken in the hospital of a particular state where your tax residency is. So that’s why people tend to make less per hour as a travel nurse. They get more benefits in the licensing part, where they travel and work in the same state. However, you would be technically considered an agency nurse at that point.
Myth #2: Travel agencies need your paperwork for you to get started
Many agencies take a hardball approach to the idea that you need to have all of your documentation completed before they even can talk to you, discuss jobs, discuss pay packages, etc. It is a huge myth because you can get started by just giving out simple information. And they could already start setting contracts and information for you.
Unfortunately, though, the reason that they do take this hard approach to it is that once you get paired with your recruiter, a recruiter has an equal or greater amount of paperwork that they need to complete in order for you to be travel ready. So, they wouldn’t be able to submit your age to a hospital. Still, if you have your checklist done (which is pretty simple to do, takes like 30 minutes), and they have regular information of what unit specialty you possess, they could start compiling a list of availability for you.
And then, while you do that, you have time to start filling in the paperwork. This way, the process is quicker and easier. Even if you’re not following this procedure, simply pick up the phone and contact your recruiter. All they really need is your name, your email, what’s your specialty, and where do you want to go to. That’s literally all they need for you to get started.
Myth #3: Travel nurses always float.
One of the biggest concerns of the upcoming travel nurses is the myth about floating. Most staff nurses shy away from it, so it’s only fair if the travel nurses loathe it too. And do we blame them? It’s not an easy task, after all. As for the validity of myth, it’s not entirely true. Travel nurses don’t ALWAYS float.
Floating at some point in your nursing career is bound to happen. But thinking that it happens every shift, especially because you’re a travel nurse, is, in fact, a misconception. However, there is some truth to the statement as well. The reason is you are most of the time paid a little bit more than the regular staff nurses, and your position at the hospital is relatively disposable, which means you’re a liability. Thus, travel nurses float in the same situation as staff nurses.
Myth #4: The full-time staff won’t like me at any new job.
We all want to feel welcomed, right? Hospitals that utilize travel nurses do so because they’re in need, whether it’s due to a shortage or filing an extended absence.
Therefore, your presence at the hospital will always be welcomed because you’re taking the load off their shoulders. Nevertheless, unlike regular staff, travel nurses enjoy perks such as weekly/monthly bonuses, better salary, free housing, and job flexibility which can make permanent hospital staff envious of them.
That is not to say that all of them would feel that way. Most of your fellow nurses would appreciate you joining their team, relieving them from long and extra shifts. Also, if you look at some of the statements the registered nurses gave, you’d be amazed at how far-fetched this myth is because most of the time, the permanent staff welcomes you with utmost gratitude and enthusiasm.
Myth #5: I have to move every 13 weeks.
We understand that the myth might be formidable because 3 months go by in the blink of an eye. While it’s true that 13-week assignments are typical in travel nursing, many hospitals offer extensions that can last months and even years, giving travel nurses the option to work in the same locality. Sometimes, even your hiring manager would ask you to stay for up to 6 months with enticing offers (if you were exceptionally good at your work).
However, accepting an extension is up to you once your contract ends. Whether you choose to stay or leave, it’s best to consider all your options and sift out the possibilities. We’d also recommend consulting a lawyer to understand the contract’s terms better. Make sure you’ve negotiated well before communicating your choice of staying or extending your contract in a particular hospital.
Myth #6: Going from assignment to assignment will hurt my resume.
Another myth newcomers have to deal with is that too many travel nursing jobs look bad on your resume. It’s expected that when you submit your resume after being a travel nurse for just a year, it’s based on an average of 13 weeks of assignment, and you have 2-3 hospitals listed per year. This isn’t a bad thing when you go into travel nursing.
Yes, it is about money, but sometimes it’s also about freedom, the ability to see new places, and stacking up experience to slide onto your resume so that you are a more rounded, better-balanced nurse. And as you travel, you gain knowledge, experience, and skills. Travel nursing is about the experience. The more experience that you get, the more things you can add to your resume, and the more dynamic and diverse you are. And even if you’re looking at transitioning back into a staff job after travel nursing, who wouldn’t want a nurse who has been to 678 different hospitals and has better experience handling a new hospital?
Having minimal orientation, they can just hit the ground running and function and fly independently. Who wouldn’t want that kind of diversity and that kind of strong nurse to add to their staff? So, the fact is just the opposite. The variety of assignments on your resume appeals to hospital hiring managers, as it shows you’re flexible, adaptable, and a skilled, confident nurse.
Myth #7: I have to leave my hometown.
This is not entirely a myth because some facilities have a 50 or 100-mile radius rule to restrict travel nurses from working in their local area. There are, however, tremendous opportunities for nurses who want to work in their tax residencies to enjoy the perks of mobile health care. You don’t have to travel across the country to be a travel nurse.
Assignments are available coast to coast. And possibly in your immediate area or within a short drive from your home base. You just need to work a tad bit hard to find those opportunities.
Myth #8: Travel nurses can work for $10.00 an hour
Well, what nurse would work for $10 an hour in their right mind? Honestly, it really just depends on your entire pay package, what your stipends look like, and what your hourly rate looks like. A lot of agencies will offer a lower hourly rate, but that’s so that they can load up your tax-free stipends on the back end and make those look a little more appealing, a little juicier.
There are definitely pros and cons to taking a higher or a lower hourly rate with the higher stipend. It just depends on what you’re looking to take home at the end of the week, what your gross pay is, what your net pay is, and what your specific financial picture looks like. So, one of the benefits the agency gets from paying a lower hourly rate is that they do not have to pay higher payroll taxes. In return, they could give you a higher stipend and compensate for that money they’re saving from payroll taxes. Buyer be ware though! If you’re taxable wage is lower than the norm you run the risk of being audited. While there is no set standard make sure you feel comfortable with the pay package that is offered.
Conversely, depending on what agency you’re working for, they could also end up pocketing that money. In any event, it’s kind of a two-way street. Since no IRS regulations dictate or mandate a minimum wage for travel nurses, a fair hourly rate for any RN is $30 to $40 an hour. You should reasonably expect that you will make roughly an hour plus your stipend.
Myth #9: Travel nursing is about making more money.
Yes, it is. And a new travel nurse who’s not making a lot of hourly wages will probably think that travel nursing will make them rich, and they’ve hit the go button. However, if you’re a traveler or a nurse of 30 or 35 years and are at the top of your career, how do you scale it then? Travel nursing might not look quite as good, but as a whole, it should pay at least double of what you would be making if you were a staff nurse.
You would make enough to pay for the housing and hopefully have some leftover. If you can land a pandemic assignment, it will make you triple of what you’re making at the moment. So, if you come in and ask somebody, what am I going to make if I work as a Med surge nurse? Well, I don’t know what you’re going to make because it depends on where you’re going, the cost of living, and what the hospitals will infect. So are you going to get rich? Probably not.
With the surge in the travel nursing profession, there were bound to be some misconceptions that would surface every now and then. Here, we’ve attempted to debunk some of the myths from the fiction in an effort to encourage the upcoming nurses to follow their hearts (if this is what their heart desires, that is).
You can also directly contact the travel nursing agencies to clear these misconceptions. They would love to help you out in whatever way they can. Additionally, you can reach out to experts in the field or your colleagues. You’ll get first-hand insight and experience of what’s fact and what’s fiction which would help you in making the right decision for yourself.