If you’re a traveling nurse, you have a great opportunity and responsibility. As a professional who’s been called in to meet a crucial staffing need, your commitment and professionalism are vital. That said, it’s easy to let enthusiasm get in the way of pragmatism when it comes to committing to a temporary contract. Here are several key ways to protect yourself so you can focus on your job. 

1. Sign Before You Drive

Be sure to sign your traveling nurse contract before you embark. A nursing contract is a business agreement that gives you something to fall back on in case the situation changes. Review it carefully. Determine your weekly take-home pay. Keep in mind that if you go out of state, you’ll also be paying taxes to your home state. Also, ensure that the weekly rate is based on 36 hours (normally for three 12-hour shifts). 

2. Negotiate Before You Sign

After you sign the contract, negotiations are over. When checking out a potential employer, keep a running list of items you want to include in the contract, and ones you don’t. One thing to find out about is the level of reimbursement if you’re canceled immediately before the start date. Ask for time off within the contract, and that the facility adds your vacation weeks to the end.  

3. Get Hours In Writing

This is key to ensure you’re paid in case you get a shift canceled. Get guaranteed hours in writing for 36 hours/week. Watch out for clauses that say otherwise. If you’re working holidays or overtime, your pay needs to be commensurate with the going rate — not straight pay. Keep in mind that customary pay for overtime or holidays is time and a half on taxable money only. 

4. Know Your Worth

When you negotiate your salary, keep in mind that you’ll be paying for your own housing, using your own vehicle, and will likely receive no benefits. Factor this in. Respectfully, let your agencies or recruiters know how you feel about the salaries you’re being offered. 

5. Miscellaneous Thoughts

You’ll have the most bargaining power if you have paperwork submitted with several agencies at all times, and inform them of this. They need to know that your services are in demand and valuable. Although most facilities offer housing for a fee, you can save money by renting yourself.

Being a traveling nurse is rewarding and challenging. Consider these factors before committing to a placement.