As a nurse, you’re no stranger to negotiation. You’ve likely bargained with countless patients to fulfill less than desirable doctor’s orders. If you’ve been working in a clinical or hospital setting there were probably numerous instances when you had to arrange for coverage for time off or work a deal with a fellow nurse to cover your shift. If you can view negotiating your travel nurse contract in the same way you did these other arrangements, you can approach it with calm confidence.
Let’s look at three keys to successfully navigating the travel nurse contract.
Define Your Priorities
Before you even meet with an agency, you’ll want to spend time defining exactly what you are willing to do. A travel nurse needs to think about how far they are willing to travel, how long they are willing to stay, housing, preferred shifts and most importantly salary requirements and benefits.
What are your housing preferences? Make sure you figure out what is important to you. Do you want a space that includes extras like flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi or a microwave? Would you rather be in a big city close to shopping or do you prefer rural areas? These are things to keep in mind when looking at the contract. What about transportation and parking fees? Some hospitals can charge $300 a month for parking! Make sure you figure out if the agency reimburses you for that and other expenses.
Hold out for the compensation package that you need to meet your financial requirements. If you find an agency you like but their benefits package isn’t quite in line with your needs, don’t be afraid to ask. This is where negotiation comes in.
Do you have a set number in your head that dictates whether or not a position is worth it to you? Maybe you decide you won’t leave home for less than $1700. Communicate that and your other priorities with your recruiter.
Explore Your Options
The details of the contract you sign will affect you on a daily basis. The decision is one you don’t want to take lightly and one that deserves serious consideration. One of the best things you can do to successfully begin your career as a travel nurse is to explore all the options available to you.
There is no shortage of nursing agencies available, but you’ll want to take the time to find an agency that takes care of their nurses. During your research phase, ask to see the agency’s contract. Carefully consider what they are offering you. Look for medical, dental, and retirement benefits. Do they offer bonuses, paid time off or sick leave? How quickly do benefits begin?
Don’t forget to look at the clauses. The agency may have attractive benefits but restrictive clauses that you won’t want to comply with. Make sure you pay attention to the guaranteed hours clause. Each agency can define “guaranteed hours” differently, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You are making a big commitment to leave your job and your home to travel to a new place to work with people you don’t know yet. You need to make sure you are taken care of financially.
Don’t just look at the numbers. Dig a little deeper and make sure you understand the big picture. For example, Agency One may offer you $40 an hour but no low census protection and Agency Two may offer $37 an hour but low census protection through guaranteed pay. Make sure you run those numbers so you are comparing apples to apples.
Be Confident but Fair
You have every right to go into the negotiations with confidence in who you are and what you offer the agency. Skilled nurses that are willing to travel are very valuable to the agency and the hospital they contract with. However, it is important to be reasonable and fair with your expectations. There is a difference between being firm and being demanding. Like most relationships, it is a two-way street. Both parties should be willing to compromise and give a little. Just make sure you don’t give on things that are non-negotiable for your well-being.
Find an agency that works with you as a teammate. You have their back and they have yours. If you both work together you can create a win-win relationship and a rewarding career as a travel nurse.