Signing the Travel Nurse contract


Travel nursing is a job many nurses have found to be an exciting dream job.  Traveling gives a nurse an opportunity to see parts of the country they might not otherwise get the chance to see.  Many say it is like being on a constant vacation with pay.

One challenge for the travel nurse is not just getting the job but getting and signing a good contract.  I am not a lawyer and there have been times when I wish I had one to understand what is presented in a contract.   I hear from nurses almost daily who have had issues related to the contract they signed.

Once you have been offered and then accept a position then comes the contract.  Typically you will receive a contract within 24 hours from your recruiter.  I am always perplexed when I hear that a nurse didn’t read the contract before signing.

You should know that once you accept and sign a contract you are committing to certain responsibilities and legal obligations.  Once the contract is signed understand this is a LEGAL document. We all know that unforeseen situations can occur affecting your ability to start or complete an assignment.  Regardless of the situation actions can be taken against you if you fail to complete the terms of the contract.

Contract rules

Contract rules can vary from state to state.  Some agencies may have a clause allowing them to fine you for cancellation or for missed shifts.  Any contract you sign is with your agency and not the hospital.  There may be negative outcomes for the agency by the hospital for unfulfilled contracts.

Your word is your bond so before you commit either verbally or by written contract consider all the important facts.

Let’s look at a list of the major items to consider in your contract.

Shift and hours

Be very clear what hours and shift you are guaranteed.  Hospitals and facilities may have different wording for the number of hours they guarantee.  Do not assume that 36 hours per week means paid whether worked or not.  Understand how many times you can be called off without pay during your 13-week assignment.

Some facilities will not guarantee a specific shift or work schedule.  Be clear on how scheduling works for this assignment since it may not be in your contract.  Your recruiter may not have been provided information on the schedule.  Always ask how scheduling is handled at new facilities where you are assigned.


Many nurses carry their own health insurance policies since they may move from one agency to another for assignments.  If insurance coverage is something you require then make sure to discuss with your recruiter.  A contract may only ask for you to accept or decline coverage with little to no information so be sure to get details from your recruiter.

Time off and holiday pay

If you are traveling on assignment during a holiday season you need to confirm whether or not your facility pays travelers holiday pay.  Just because a facility offers a paid holiday to staff does not mean that applies to you as a traveler.  Confirm with your recruiter what is expected of you as a traveler for the holiday.

Pay breakdown

Most importantly understand the breakdown of your pay.  Travel pay includes several items.  Make sure your contract covers them all.

First paycheck

Ask your recruiter the date when you can expect your first paycheck.  You do not want to come up short waiting for that first check.

Net pay vs. gross pay

Your hourly rate is usually quoted as gross pay.  Understand after all deductions the net pay is what you get on payday.  Net pay is what is left after all of the taxes, insurance, and any other deductions are taken out.  You are the only one who will know what deductions will come out of your check.  It is important to know what to expect on your paycheck.


If you are being reimbursed for travel expenses, state license etc your contract should specify when to expect the money.  Clarify any questions you have about what is reimbursable with your recruiter before the contract is written.  Know when to look for the reimbursement in your paycheck.

Bonus money terms

Many travel nursing agencies will offer bonuses.  Some bonuses are offered directly from the facility where you will work.  The terms and conditions of any agency bonuses will be spelled out in your contract.  The agency, however, has no control over any bonus offer by a facility.  Know what the terms and conditions are before you sign on the dotted line.

When signing a contract be clear about your expectations and what you are agreeing to, ask questions before you sign and work with a recruiter you trust.  Lastly, make sure you read before you sign so you are not disappointed on payday.

For a list of jobs that are open and waiting for you to sign a contract visit our Job Board!

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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