Let’s face it, trying to figure out what a travel nursing job offer is really worth is confusing.
There’s just so much to consider. Pay rates, travel stipends, benefits, meal stipends, bonuses, housing…and that’s only the financial end. On top of that, it seems like every agency has a different way of giving you the information, which makes it even harder to compare travel offers from multiple agencies.
Just as confusing, when you talk to your friends or ask questions on travel nursing blogs, you get everyone jumping in with opinions on who pays best, who pays the least, who offers decent benefits, and on and on. And rarely do those opinions agree with each other.
Relax. We want to give you five easy-to-follow steps to help make sure you always get a deal you understand, so you can make a decision that is right for you.
Step 1. Remember, It’s All About You
Before you get started, take the time to know what you’re looking for! There are a lot of great reasons to be a travel nurse, and it’s important that you understand which of those reasons are important to you.
Are you looking to travel the U.S. and have your work life pay for it? Do you want experience in a specific setting or specialty? Do you want to be closer to family and loved ones? Or is it all about the money?
We get that your choice to travel rarely comes down to a single reason, but take the time upfront to decide what those reasons are and how important each one is to you. If you clearly understand and stay focused on your goals, you’ll make a decision that’s right for you.
Step 2. One Size Does Not Fit All
One reason why it’s so hard to compare travel nurse job offers is that packages are typically tailored to fit your career goals, income and benefit needs, and life objectives.
Better agencies understand that no two travelers have the same needs, so they build a lot of flexibility into how they can structure your deal. It’s to your advantage, but it makes it tough to turn to others for advice or opinions. Since each package is somewhat different, typically no two people have exactly the same offering.
It’s like eating at a restaurant. You and your friend can work your way through the same buffet line, but you can each have a very different opinion about the place depending on the choices you made.
Again, understanding what’s important to you before you start your discussions with a travel nursing agency is very important. Do you need medical coverage? Are you looking for lodging to be included or are you staying with a friend or relative? Are you driving/flying yourself or do you want travel included?
Once you start talking the specifics of your offer with your recruiter, ask lots of questions. Based on what your needs are, the recruiter likely has a fair amount of flexibility on how they can structure your deal, but might not think to mention them all if you don’t ask.
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Step 3. There’s No Such Thing as a Free Ride
Sad, but true. The good news, however, is once you understand this truth, you can better evaluate your travel job offer.
Typically, and we stress that this is not always true, if your agency is talking to you about special bonuses, free medical coverage, free housing, or any other kind of freebies, the odds are good that it’s just their way of making the package sound better without really making it any more valuable.
Agencies know what a job offer’s compensation package needs to max out at. Based on their contracts with facilities, there is only so much they can pay out in a compensation plan and still make money for their company. And every agency has to make money in order to stay in business.
Are there occasional exceptions to this rule? Sometimes. If an agency has a good business reason to provide special incentives – such as making a good impression with a facility, or they have a real shortage of candidates in a certain geographic area – they might decide to sweeten a deal and add extra money.
The important take away here is, never let special offers sway you one way or the other, unless you do the math first…
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Step 4. Always Do the Math
There’s nothing complicated about figuring out the value of your travel nursing job offer once you understand how to approach it. The secret is to make sure you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison of the numbers.
A travel package from a recruiter will normally consist of several different categories of compensation. Of course, it will include your pay rate. But it will also include other categories like meals, travel stipends, lodging stipends, bonuses and possibly others.
What makes it confusing is the fact that each package is communicated in different time frames. Some show you what you’ll earn per hour, some per week, some per month and some for the entire assignment.
In order to really understand the financial value of the compensation plan, you need to change them all over to the same time frame: earnings per hour. You can do this once you know the terms of your contract. By knowing the assignment’s hours per shift, hours per week, weeks per contract and total hours per contract, you can quickly do the math.
The Magic Formula
- Leave any per hour payout as is
- Divide any per week payout by the number of hours you’re expected to work per week
- Divide any per month payout by 4.3 (the average number of weeks per month) to get the per month pay out, then by the number of hours you work per week
- Divide any one-time assignment payouts by the total hours you’re contracted to work
Once you know what the earnings per hour is for each category, you simply add them all up and multiply that amount by the number of hours per week you’ll work based on your contract. This will show you the weekly value of your offer. You can then compare offers from multiple agencies and figure out which is the best financial option.
Step 5. Look for the Hidden Extras
Last but not least, look for the little extras that might make a big difference between offers.
From a financial standpoint, two areas worth asking about are an agency’s referral program and their reward and recognition program. Each can offer an excellent opportunity to earn extra money or qualify for gifts. Since these programs typically provide payouts above and beyond your compensation package, they truly do represent an extra perk to you.
Also consider your relationship with the agency and your recruiter. Do you trust them? Do you have a good relationship that you‘re comfortable with? Finding the right agency to work with, and just as importantly, a recruiter who takes the time to get to know you and has your best interests at heart, can be worth their weight in gold.
Add It All Up
At the end of the day, evaluating your travel nurse job offer comes down to a combination of facts and feelings.
To get the most out of a travel assignment, you need to consider all elements of the offer. You want the right job, at the right facility, in the right destination and with the right compensation plan. Yes, compromise is part of the travel nurse reality, but the more a travel job offer speaks to all of your wants and needs, the happier you’ll be with the assignment.
And that’s what it’s all about.