Choosing Your Next Contract

Travel nursing can be a bit intimidating for a lot of people. Surely there are a lot of pros in working as a staff in a facility. There is a sense of familiarity and security. Life in a hospital can be unnerving as it is, then if you throw in the sense of having to change your environment every three months, that could be inviting some anxiety for sure.

When choosing your next contract (or choosing your first one), avoid getting too excited on a post you see on Facebook. I am here to talk about the essentials on what makes a good contract. Needless to say that is not all about the money (although we would be lying if we say it does not play a huge factor in our decision making).

Take note of some of the more personal reasons on why some consider travel nursing:

  • Experience
    •   We need to challenge ourselves more and more. In the nursing field, you do not know what you might be able to encounter on your next shift and being prepared could spell a huge difference. The best way to gain a wealth of experience is to actually move around, not just from facility to facility, but from state to state as well.
    •   Another thing about gaining experience as a travel nurse is that it will be advisable to keep your specialties well rounded within seven years. Most of the time, upon submission of a profile, experience will be considered within the last seven years. If you stay on one specialty for too long, you might limit yourself to working on that specialty and find yourself on other opportunities.
  • Lifestyle
    • To some people, travel nursing is more than a type of contract but rather an actual lifestyle. I have seen some who have actually built their lives to travel the country, taking contracts along the way to make a living. I know this does not really speak to everyone because it takes a major overhaul of what you might have gotten used to, but it is something that can be quite appealing if given the chance.
    •  I encourage you to actually talk to those who have done it before you. You would be surprised at how many travel nurses have adapted to the lifestyle and can share deeper input.  Surely, a wealth of experience from veteran travelers allows a more encouraging set of view points.
  • Family
    •   One of the more common reasons for some travelers is they want to be able to take advantage of making a living while being closer to family without having to commit to a permanent staffing role.
  • Rates
    • You have to admit that travel nursing has very enticing rates and as mentioned, this is a huge factor that a lot would consider when choosing their next contract.

 Now a combination of two or more reasons mentioned above can definitely be something that would get one to turn to travel nursing.  But as I have mentioned, let us take a look at other factors that would allow you to maximize your experience as a travel nurse.

After you answered the question of why you would want to consider travel nursing, it is now time to consider the other factors you would like to see in a contract:

  • Location
    • It would be wise to think about where you want to go first when you look into travel nursing. This would actually pre-determine a lot of things down the line (which we will discuss further in detail).
  • Cost of Living
    • If you are crossing to another state, you will be granted tax exemptions in the form of stipends. One thing you need to know about your stipends, is that the higher they are, the higher the cost of living is in the area. There are some noteworthy cities that are considered expensive to live in like San Francisco in CA and Anchorage in AK. Two very different cities but expensive in their own way. So it is helpful to actually look beyond the stipends and see how much you can really save from your pay while living in a given location.
  • Facility
    • You can do research ahead of time of the facility you are applying for. It is only fair that you get a glimpse of the place of work you are applying for and that could be a determining factor on its own.
  • Environment
    • I know this is not a part of the contract but a quick research should allow you to get an idea of the current atmosphere of the place you are going to work in. Now this has to be done on your end, but it is a part of your due diligence to actually  know what kind of “atmosphere” you would have to deal with once you are there. As what I have pointed out on tips in keeping yourself safe during an assignment is “keeping a low profile”. Avoid talking about religion, politics and other views that may incite heated discussion or even an argument. Getting the feel of the pulse of the area should help with your decision making.
  • Nature of the Contract
    • There is a special circumstance that a contract for a given location or facility was somehow prioritized for a given period. Perfect example of this was the crisis response that was implemented for the whole country when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Feel free to inquire or do your own research to see if a particular location you got your eye on has a special circumstance that resulted in your specialty being prioritized and given a particular rate. I have seen many nurses wanting to terminate their contract early just because they did not anticipate that they are covering for a workforce that is on strike.
  • Contract length
    • Naturally this is something we would like to consider before signing up for a contract. I understand the demand for shorter contracts (between four to six weeks) however the standard 13-week contract should be the sweet spot for any contracts. This way you can lock yourself into a three-month commitment to a facility which should be more than enough to really experience the area and have enough information (or experience) to evaluate if an extension would be a viable option for you. A thirteen-week contract should also allow you to get better rates in housing.
  • The Agency
    • There are literally hundreds of agencies out there that promise a lot of things for their travelers. Unfortunately, whatever write-up or ads you see about a given company may be something you want to ask yourself if it is true. The best way to find out if the experience with that agency is legitimate is word of mouth. Find a friend or a colleague or even ask for feedback from other travelers that may have had experience with a particular agency. This way you know what you can expect or if that company is worth your time.
  • Recruiter
    • Your recruiter will play a huge part in your entire experience while you are serving your contract. They are your first contact when you start considering assignments. You should be able to tell a lot from initial interaction. Your recruiter should genuinely care about you as a person rather than aiming to just have you sign the contract. Do note that their job does not end after you sign the contract, they carry on making sure that you are getting what is due (regular pay, overtime, stipends, etc.) Having a solid relationship with your recruiter could make your next contract a truly pleasant experience.

Now for those who are new to travel nursing, I hope this can be a good platform to start. Details of what one might consider important when taking on a contract. At the end of the day, everything will be subjective and it will boil down on weighing the pros and cons. All in all, travel nursing is a challenge and to be honest, it is not really for everyone. However, it can be really fulfilling in the long run and it might be something that you did not think you wanted all along.  Here at Pamelas List, we are devoted to our travelers…both new and experienced, with our recruiters working around the clock to support you!

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