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Travel nurse pay FAQs

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There are a lot of questions when it comes to taking a travel nurse assignment, but most new travel nurses have questions about how they will be compensated. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about travel nurse pay.

How much do travel nurses get paid?

Typically, travel nurses are compensated a little higher than nurses in permanent positions. However, it would be best if you looked at the big picture. When looking only at the hourly wage, nurses in permanent positions may actually make a higher hourly wage. However, a travel nurse’s total compensation may be higher when you add in non-taxable reimbursements for things like housing, meals, incidental expenses (per diems), and travel to and from assignments.

RNnetwork works with every travel nurse to create a custom compensation package for each new assignment that is most advantageous for that unique nurse. As a result, how much you earn depends on your individual situation — such as how many hours you want to work and how flexible you are when and where you are willing to work.

What determines a nurse’s pay rate?

Infographic listing the ways travel nurses can make the most money

Many variables dictate what travel nurses make. They include:

Schedule: Do you want to work more hours or fewer hours? Are you flexible with what shifts you’re willing to take? Are you willing to take call? Work holidays? Your earning potential will depend on which shifts you take, your interest in overtime, and your availability to be on-call or work holidays.

Specialty demand: Facilities tier their bill rates by specialty. For example, OR, ICU, CVICU, and ER are considered to have higher acuity than medical-surgical or telemetry. However, this does not mean your specialty limits your earning potential. Census and staffing shortages often cause hospitals to consider increasing their rates to fill those needs.

Location and seasonal demand: If you don’t mind the cold, facilities in the northern part of the U.S. often pay a higher rate during winter. But if you’d like to work at a “destination location” facility with beautiful weather, year-round, they usually pay less since they have a larger applicant pool. Pay will also usually be higher If there’s greater than usual demand due to a seasonal boom or the opening of a new unit.

Applicant pool: The more applicants a facility has to choose from, the less the pay tends to be. Prestigious facilities in popular urban areas like New York City and San Francisco tend to tick these boxes. On the flip side, a hospital with fewer applicants will offer higher pay to entice nurses to their facility. Those nurses who are willing to explore a small town may earn more.

Facility budget: Some facilities cannot compete with the rates of larger hospital systems.  

How do I get paid?

How you get paid depends on the staffing agency you work for, but at RNnetwork, we typically pay our nurses weekly via direct deposit. The way you record your time can vary by assignment, and you’ll always have a specific point of contact from our in-house payroll department for every assignment, so if you ever have a problem, you have someone to reach out to for help.

Will I make more if I don’t use a staffing agency to find travel nurse jobs?

Infographic listing expenses a travel nurse may incur of they work without an agency

The short answer is it depends on your situation. Some hospitals have their own seasonal float pool, and you can often earn more by skipping the agency and contracting directly with the hospital. However, there are some cons as well:

  • For tax purposes, you may be considered an independent 1099 contractor rather than a W-2 employee
  • You will have to provide your own benefits, such as healthcare and retirement accounts
  • You may not have guaranteed hours, which you often get with agency assignments
  • If you are an independent contractor (1099) not working with an agency, you may have to carry your own malpractice/liability insurance
  • You may have to wait longer before your invoices are paid (as much as 30-60 days or more)
  • You won’t have an employer covering a portion of your payroll taxes/contributing to your social security

How does RNnetwork’s pay compare to other agencies?

Because we’re privately owned, RNnetwork’s pay is very competitive.

  • We are large enough to offer a wide selection of jobs
  • We’re also small enough that we don’t have to pay dividends, big CEO salaries, and the other overhead of a large company
  • That means we can take a lower percentage for the agency and put more money in your pocket

Your RNnetwork recruiter is dedicated to building a custom pay package for every assignment, which means we can get you the best rate possible to meet your individual needs and circumstances. By comparison, some other agencies promote very low hourly rates to increase your non-taxable reimbursements. This may allow you to bring home more pay in the short run, but it can also be risky or detrimental to you in the long run.

When considering which travel nursing agency to work with, the best approach is to secure a balanced deal with the right amount of taxable and non-taxable compensation to maximize your earnings while minimizing your risk.

At RNnetwork, your long-term welfare is more important to us than simply getting you to work with us for one job. We don’t manipulate wages in ways that could hurt you in the long run, and we don’t want you ever to regret your decision to accept a job with us.

If you have more questions about travel nurse pay, give us a call us at 800.866.0407 to speak to a recruiter.

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