How To Break Down A Travel Nursing Contract

How To Break Down A Travel Nursing Contract

So, you want to know how to break down a travel nursing contract? If you’re reading this, you probably spent your time in nursing school instead of law school (a great choice, in our opinion!). But that probably means that binding legal contracts filled with legalese and sub-clauses are probably not your favorite thing to read or think about. That’s okay! We’re here to give you the lowdown on what a travel nursing contract is, what elements or language you should look for in a contract, and what you need to know before you sign on the dotted line. 

Break Down #1: What is a travel nursing contract? 

A travel nursing contract is just a legal agreement between you, the healthcare professional, and an agency or healthcare provider that in theory provides security and protection for both parties if done correctly. It’s a piece of paper that says you’ll work at a healthcare facility for a certain period of time, for a certain amount of money, doing a particular job with a particular set of expectations and benefits. That is always the goal, but before you sign, here’s what you should know!

Break Down #2: The basics of a travel nursing contract 

  • First and foremost, always have a signed contract before you begin work, or travel to a work site
  • Make sure your contract lists your hourly rate
  • See if your contract specifies the length of your contract 
  • Ensure the contract includes basic information about your role and responsibilities 

Here is some other very basic information that should be included on every travel nurse contract. 

Most of these will probably seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised! It’s always worth a second look just to make sure the document you are signing has this information and that it’s accurate and up to date: 

  • The agency’s name
  • The hospital’s name
  • The hospital’s location
  • The travel nurse’s name, license number, social security number, and DOB
  • The unit
  • The number of shifts per week
  • Any additional agreements made between the travel nurse and the interviewer during the interview
  • Signature of the agency’s designated representative
  • Signature of the hospital’s designated representative

In its most basic form, these items make up a contract. All of these are essential components of a travel nurse contract.

Break Down #3: What should I look for in a travel nursing contract? 

Cancellation Policy

Life happens. Crises happen. Especially in today’s world of healthcare. You need to make sure you know what happens if for some reason your contract gets canceled. Things to look for in this part of your contract include: 


As a travel nurse, the second most important part of accepting any contract is housing…where and how will you live in your new placement? The most important part of this component is to know what you are responsible for, and know what the hiring party is taking care of for you. 

Healthcare and Sick Leave Benefits 

Most hospitals and healthcare settings provide benefits for full time employees, but as a contractor, these benefits might not be available to you. Not to worry! Most agencies will offer healthcare benefits that are part of your contract. With sick leave, also check with the hiring party or agency what their policy is there (this includes things like a “quarantine” policy). Again, make sure you have a good understanding of what you’re responsible for and what is being provided for you as a part of the contract before you sign. 

Expenses and Reimbursements

Travel nursing often requires…travel (surprise!). Don’t overlook the travel expenses and reimbursements portion of a travel nurse contract

Most agencies will cover travel expenses – from your cross country road trip you take to get to your placement to your daily commute. 

While most contracts include a provision for this, the way in which you are compensated for travel can vary. Sometimes agencies will have you pay out of pocket and submit a reimbursement form for repayment. Another way would be to submit POs (purchase orders) or have an expense account with the agency, i.e., the agency pays for your expenses as they come up. Finally, some contracts will allot a stipend for you each month to use on travel expenses. If you have a strong preference one way or the other, we recommend bringing it up in your contract negotiation. 

Break Down #5: How Can I Tell If It’s a Good Travel Nursing Contract? 

Once you’ve gone through your checklist of basic information and looked for the nuts and bolts discussed above, you need to evaluate. When looking for the most bang for your buck, look to the reimbursements, benefits, and housing portion of the contracts. What are they covering? What expenses do you need to account for? For more tips on negotiating your pay package, check out Wanderly’s blog. A little bit of critical thinking and doing the math will go a long way to ensure that you get the best possible deal on your next contract. 
Just remember, if you read carefully and know what you’re looking for in a travel nurse contract, you’ll be sure to say yes to the best opportunities and be your own best advocate in your next placement search. Good luck!