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By April 18, 2014 4 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: In travel nursing, how do I know if I am being paid fairly?

Ask a Travel Nurse: In travel nursing, how do I know if I'm being paid fairly?

Ask a Travel Nurse: In travel nursing, how do I know if I’m being paid fairly?

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

In travel nursing, how do I know if I am being paid fairly?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I get a ton of emails asking this, but always feel a bit defensive of the profession of travel nursing when I respond. I suppose that is because I look back on a profession that has afforded me a great many adventures which would never have been possible for it not for travel nursing. I guess it’s kinda hard to bash anything when your first assignment is in Maui 😉

But along those lines, let me ask you a simple question; “Do you feel you are being paid fairly?”  I’ve written before that this may be a very “zen-like” way of looking at the world of travel (where nothing matters other than the enjoyment of the profession itself). But it is a question you really do have to ask yourself at some point because no matter what you are being paid, if you don’t feel fairly compensated for the work you do, then how good are you going to feel about it?

I also have to admit that I’m not really a traveler that cares what I am being paid as long as it is enough to pay my monthly bills (with some spending money left), give me a nice place to lay my head after work, and have health insurance. However, I do realize that there are those who have different priorities and money can certainly be at the forefront of those priorities.

The only way to truly know if you are being paid competitively is by comparing apples to apples on your travel assignment offerings. To do so accurately can be VERY difficult. While one company may offer a higher rate, another company may charge less for their health insurance, or have better housing, which then can negate the extra hourly. But if you are not concerned with having good healthcare coverage or staying in the nicest “digs”, then perhaps hourly rate is your only concern. If this is the case, then it becomes a bit easier because all you have to do is call several companies with which you are on file, and ask them the going rate for the area. Occasionally, you will find two or three companies with the same contract, often with a different hourly rate. It then becomes about the benefit(s) you favor most.

But, once again, if you are trying to balance the best of ALL the benefits your companies are offering, then it is tricky to have to try to weigh $2 more an hour against being put up in an extended stay hotel (verses a one bedroom apartment with the company paying less).

Try not to get caught up in the game of “what does your company pay you?” or you will always feel cheated. You can rarely know ALL the details of someone else’s contract. Call around when shopping a new assignment, weigh the benefits you feel are important, and go with a reputable company that will have your back should something go wrong on your assignment. A few dollars more an hour is NEVER worth it when your company hits you up for thous and s of dollars on a contract cancellation due to no fault of your own.

I hope this helps.


About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

4 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: In travel nursing, how do I know if I am being paid fairly?"

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  1. Liz Moore


    I worked at the same hospital for 30 years. Then I started traveling for the last 4 years. This year has been exstreamly brought. Travelers being fired left and right. This winter I been fired twice leaving me in shock. The first hospital had renew my contract. Everything going great my recruit or gets an email tell her I am fired. I was accused of not getting along with staff. 3 of the nurses wrote me letters of reference. Still I was in schlock. The second one I had only been their 3 weeks the patents came in at 20:45. There baby wa due for feeding and assessment at 2100. I did have 4 other patients. Plus tpnand lipids to hang. The parents complained their baby had a dirty diaper on. I could not believe it. I was let go. Two firings in a 5 week period considering I never ever been fired or put on a step. What is going on? I am not the only one. Has anyone. Else had this problem this winter?

  2. rebecca


    hi I will be setting out to be a travel nurse for the first time. What are the most important things I should know?? Is there a book that has all the tips I need? Thanks, Rebecca

  3. David says:

    Hey Rebecca. I do not know where you are starting as far as a knowledge base on travel nursing. If you are starting from scratch, I might recommend my book, the Travel Nurse’s Bible. It is literally a “how to” guide on becoming a travel nurse.

    I’ve been working on a rewrite for some time now, but had a really chaotic year. With all the requests for the book, I decided to make the 2009 edition available online in the Amazon Kindle store.

    While it is a few years old, during the reworking of the book, I was surprised to see how much of the book, has stood the test of time. Plus, I’ve made it available for less than the price of your next meal at McDonalds. It’s a great place to start even if you do have some knowledge about the travel industry.

    If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free programs or apps to read it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can find it here:

    Some great websites, other than here at, are,, and the Delphi forum for traveling professionals (go to, look for the box on the right that says “Explore existing forums”, type in “travel nursing” and the top result is a group called Travel Nurses and Therapists).

    Pan Travelers is also another good site with a forum. They have a free section and also a portion where there is a charge to access information.

    Healthcare Traveler Magazine is presently moving entirely online, but can be found at where you can read current or back issues (I’ve written articles for them as well as a monthly column that you can find in past issues). You can also join Healthcare Travelbook (, which is a sort of Facebook style place for travelers, which also has a forum.

    And finally, when you are ready to start out, I can offer you some help in getting set up with some great people in the industry as I do offer to refer nurses to the people that I use and trust for my own personal travels.

    What works best for both my recruiters and I is to have you send me your best contact info (full name, best email, and best phone number where they might reach you) to

    I’ll pass along your info and after I do this, I’ll email you the name of the person who will be contacting you, the company for which they work, and a little bio on the company. These people are the ONLY people who will receive any of your information.

    I ALWAYS advise travelers to be on file with at least a handful of companies (after a decade and a half, I am still on file with six or seven). So many of the nurses join all the companies I refer them to, but usually find a favorite and do most of their traveling with that company. I am no different, but when I want to get to a location and my preferred company does not have any assignments in the area, I can always call two or three others and find what I want.

    It’s also important for new travelers to be on file with multiple companies because some hospitals will even specify, “no first-time travelers”. So obviously, the more companies you are on file with, the more assignment opportunities you will have (not all companies have the same assignment selection).

    Don’t be afraid to have several companies looking for you at once, but be courteous to your recruiters and let them know if you do take an assignment with anyone else (so they do not continue to spend their time seeking an assignment for you).

    While most travelers start with the companies that I use, if in your travels, you ever hear of another company that interests you, always check them out on the forums and see what other travelers may have to say about them.

    Another way to gauge a travel company can be by the amount of time they have been in business (not all “young” companies are bad, just as not all companies that have been in the business awhile will be good). Longevity just says that they have been doing this awhile and should have most of their ducks in a row (and it also means you should be able to find out more about them on the forums).

    Also look and see if they have a Better Business Bureau rating. Not all companies are accredited by the BBB (most might not be) but even if a company is not accredited by the BBB, they may have a rating and you can see if anyone has ever filed a complaint against them.

    Finally, I recommend simply typing the company name into a search browser with the word “complaint” or “review”. This sometimes yields some pretty interesting results.

    I hope this info helps and if you have any other questions, I’m easiest to reach at But I am still a working traveler who corresponds with a lot of nurses on a daily basis, so please understand if it takes me a little time to respond.


  4. Mike Emery says:

    Our company has a good downloadable report for travel nurses. It is titled: “Travel Nursing and Tax Free Money…What Every Travel Nurse Should Know”. I welcome you to include a link to our site.

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