Most Travel Nurses Are Missing Out On Money By Not Doing This One Thing
Julia Kuhn, MS CCC-SLP Blogger at: The Traveling Traveler
Travel nurse pay can be complicated! Negotiating a pay rate and understanding the pay breakdown can be challenging. Did you know that if you extend an assignment, you should be eligible get an increase in compensation? Read on to understand how travel nurse pay works, why you should get an increase in pay with an extension, and how to ask for that money.
Understanding the Bill Rate
To better understand why you should get paid more when you extend an assignment, let’s first look at how travel pay works.
As a traveling nurse, you total pay package is broken down into different forms of compensation including:
- Taxed hourly rate
- Untaxed housing stipend or company-provided housing
- Untaxed per diem (aka. “meals and incidentals”)
- Some agencies offer reimbursements for bonuses, referrals, licenses, moving, etc.
The important thing to remember about travel nursing pay is that it all comes from one place: the bill rate. The bill rate is the amount per hour that a hospital is paying your agency to have you in the building. Everything that you earn over the course of your contract, from start to finish comes out of that bill rate. This includes the cost of moving to an assignment, orientation, drug testing, and anything else that your agency has to pay for over the course of 13-weeks.
A bill rate may include the following:
- Contribute to paying for the agency costs to run (staffing costs, office leases, utilities, office supplies, advertising and marketing costs, staff education and training, etc.)
- Pay a vendor management service for fees (if any). This is essentially a middleman between the agency and the hospital
- Cover the cost of onboarding and your compliance (TB tests, drug screens, physicals, Fit tests, etc.)
- Premiums for company-provided health insurance, 401(k)s, life insurance, and any other benefits offered by the agency
- Reimbursements for moving
- Company-provided housing/car rentals, or a housing stipend
- And finally, pay your hourly rate *occurs at the beginning of a contract and not during extensions
Costs That Occur at The START Of A New Contract
From the list above, the items that are starred reflect the expenses that occur only at the beginning of a new contract and NOT during an extension. If you are extending at a location, it means that you do not have to travel to a new location and you probably will not have any physicals or compliance tests to stay at the assignment.
Here is a breakdown of the expenses that may happen at the beginning of a contract. Of course, these expenses may not happen with every contract. You may only have a TB test, physical, and fit test once a year.
- TB test with reading: $50
- Drug Test: $50
- Physical at a walk-in clinic: $75-$150
- N95 mask fit testing: $45
- Relocation reimbursement: Anywhere from $250-$1000
- Criminal background check: $20
Total amount to start a new contract: Anywhere from $240 (if no housing or moving fees were paid) to over $1,250! WOW!
Remember, that is money coming out of YOUR bill rate. Therefore, if you extend a contract, don’t let that money that was used to cover upfront expenses go missing in your extension. Ask to be compensated that money in the form of a pay raise or bonus.
What Do I Do If My Company Refuses to Increase My Pay for an Extension?
Knowing all of the information that you now know, you should be well-equipped to negotiate a pay raise into your next contract extension. The increase in pay should reflect the money that your agency paid in your upfront expenses at the beginning of your contract.
For instance, if your agency paid $1,000 to onboard and move you to your assignment, you would have an extra $1,000 to work with on your extension. You could take that $1,000 and divide it by 13 to determine a fair increase to your weekly pay rate. For $1,000 of upfront expenses, which could be an extra $77 gross dollars per week to your income.
If your agency will not increase your hourly rate, try asking for a one-time bonus at the beginning of the extension. If your moving expenses were $500 at the beginning of your contract, ask for a $500 bonus to be written into your extension.
You could also ask for a bonus in the form of continuing education or licensing reimbursements. Perhaps there is a continuing education class that is a couple of hundreds of dollars. Ask your agency to include a reimbursement for that class into your extension.
Knowing how travel pay works and understanding the bill rate are key elements to help you negotiate more for a travel extension. Next time you extend, use this information to secure more money!