Healthcare Professionals

Understanding a Travel Nurse Contract


September 14, 2022

So, you’ve decided to become a travel nurse but what you’re starting to realize is there’s a lot of moving parts to the process. You make it past the interview at the facility of your choice and your recruiter submits to you the travel nurse contract. You open the email and see a loooong, daunting DocuSign filled with jargon, overwhelming numbers and a lengthy presentation.  First thought: Close the email and run!! Not so fast…

Read Everything!

This is important and while understandably not fun, it’s a critical step in your travel career.  The contract is the essence of what you’re going to be bound to by the hospital and the company that is cutting your paycheck each week. The last thing you want to do is sign without reading or ignore the key components.

Over the years, I’ve seen so many travel nurses get into contracts that end up being just plain awful. When I ask them “Did you read the contract?” the majority cringe and answer “Not really”. Let’s take a moment and think about this, you’ve signed a legal document without reading it or perhaps just briefly reading over all the important parts? This makes me cringe and gasp. As a travel nurse of seven years, we must understand the value of knowing what’s in our contracts. We must understand the numbers that are displayed, the dates that are documented and the legal jargon that our signature is binding us to.

Travel Nurse Contract Basics

To help you decipher this legal document, I’ve complied a list a of the top five parts to a contract you want to be aware of and understand. To get started, it’s important to know that you can sit on a contract for at least 24 hours before signing it.  Give yourself time to think, read and negotiate the terms that have been presented to you, with that said, let’s dive in!

1. Make sure your contract dates and time-off requests are correct.

This seems simple enough but there’s no turning back once you’ve signed your John Hancock. All too often a company will pass the puck onto you to make the corrections with the manger or facility and this is too risky for me to depend on.

2. Verify the information.

Double (and triple check) that the info you’ve discussed in the interview with the manger is also noted in your contract. This is especially true with time-off, agreed upon start times and shifts, and/or required weekends. Now, I know what you’re thinking… what interview? Let’s pause here for a little tangent. I highly recommend having an interview with the facility in which you’ve been submitted if a contract is granted – don’t be afraid to ask!

3. Calculate your pay, meals and incidentals and housing.

This is how much you’re going to make and understanding how a company allocates the pay and distributes the “bonuses” is imperative. All too often, travel companies will allocate monies in various forms. Knowing how they arrived at the calculation and where they distribute the money will help you make a more informed decision for agreement.

4. Familiarize yourself with basic law terminology.

For example, litigation and arbitration are common words you’ll see in contracts with larger companies. Understanding these terms will help you feel more confident about what you’re signing and agreeing to.

5. Review the requirements for floating.

As a travel nurse, you will at some point have to float to another unit while on assignment. Having clearly defined floating guidelines and expectations will save you from a surprise float assignment. For example, a neonatal ICU contract should not be sending you to an adult ICU floor and I would make sure the verbiage is clearly stated and expectations clearly defined.

Getting Help with your Contract

Reading and understanding the terms of a contract are the most daunting, yet the most imperative parts of any legal agreement. The ability to dissect a travel nurse contract comes with time and experience.  Whether you enlist an experienced travel colleague or more formally through NurseRX, getting help before you sign is always a smart decision.

About the Author
Special thanks to Christine Diltz RN, BSN, the Founder and CEO of NurseRX, for providing the content of this article. Christine is a neonatal and pediatric ICU nurse who’s been in the travel nurse industry for over seven years. She’s helped numerous nurses learn and understand how to become a better, smarter travel nurse.

About NurseRX
NurseRX is a launchpad that streamlines the process of transitioning staff nurses to travelers. We pride ourselves on teaching you all there is to know about reading and understanding your travel nurse contract. For more information, please feel free to check us out at and follow us on Instagram @nurserxusa.

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