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Ask a Travel Nurse: Should I have a travel nursing contract checklist?


Excellent ChecksAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

Do you have a list of options that you make sure you spell out on a contract, sort of a guide or checklist to follow to make sure that all your needs, issues and concerns are spelled out within your contract?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

The things that you should see reflected in a travel contract are basically anything promised to you by your company.

Obviously, your travel company is not going to write a separate contract for each assignment from scratch. It will be a st and ardized form with things like pay rates and housing stipends “filled in.” However, if you agree to anything outside of the elements they usually include in their contracts, you will want to have that reflected.

A basic contract should first address the basic terms and conditions of the assignment. It should state where the assignment will take place (important to check if there are more than one facility, for example, UCLA versus UCLA: Santa Monica), dates of the assignment, the shift you will work, how many hours per week,  and compensation.

Compensation should include hourly rate, overtime rate, on-call rate, amount of housing stipend (or “housing provided” stipulated), and amount of travel reimbursement ( and possibly license reimbursement). Do remember that if you are participating in a “tax advantage program” your hourly rate will be reflected as lower than what you will actually be making.

You will also want to see confirmation of benefits, but rather than spelling out the specifics, it may read, “medical and  dental provided.”

If you agree to anything outside the “norms,” you will want to ask your recruiter to make sure those items are also placed in the contract. For example, if you discussed needing to have a certain day off during your contract for a loved one’s birthday or even “Superbowl Sunday” then it should be written into the contract.

Ask your recruiter to send you a copy of the contract as soon as it is available. If anything needs to be corrected, insist upon having a signed, corrected contract before leaving for your assignment. If something occurs that gives you pause, and your recruiter promises to take care of the issue, you may also consider having them write that into your contract.

For example, if you were promised a one-bedroom apartment, but all the housing department was able to find was an extended-stay hotel, your recruiter might tell you that they will get you into a one bedroom as soon as possible. I have heard of this happening to other travelers and then they never end up getting their “promised” one-bedroom accommodation.

If I encountered this situation, I would ask my recruiter how long they thought I would be required to be in an extended-stay hotel (since that is NOT my preferred accommodation). If they stated, “it shouldn’t be more than a few weeks,” then I would ask that they put “one-bedroom apartment to be provided within two weeks of assignment start date” into a corrected contract. You can obviously use your judgment here and if you have been traveling with a company for multiple assignments and trust your recruiter, then you might forego this. However, if this is your first contract with a company, best to get EVERYTHING promised in writing.

Your contract might also include things like your expected duties while on assignment. Something stating that you will “adhere to all the facility’s policy and procedures, act in a professional manner,” etc. However, you could also see this covered in a separate “Conduct agreement” that is usually signed on a yearly basis and states that you will adhere to the specified conduct on every assignment that you take with the company.

Finally, always read your ENTIRE contract. It should cover things like contract terminations and what things would occur should you or the facility decide to terminate the contract. If you are just starting to work with a new company, the wording of the contract itself might be enough for you to decide not to travel with a company. For example, I would NEVER travel with a company that specified I would be responsible for paying the remainder of a lease if the hospital terminated my contract. While certain aspects of a travel contract will be similar from company to company, every company’s contract will be unique. So again, it is imperative that you read your entire contract thoroughly.

I hope this answers your question.


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.

6 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Should I have a travel nursing contract checklist?"

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  1. Gina



    Do you know of a website for each state’s total tax free allowed amount for housing per state? Each state is different and I am looking at a contract in Maui.


  2. David says:

    Hey Gina. I don’t know that states have allowances as far as “housing” when it comes to tax-free money. Most IRS allowances speak to meals and incidentals, even when housing or lodging is often included in that amount.

    The website for the allowances by area can be found here:

    I hope this helps.


  3. Christie Papiani


    Hi David! I just got on the site u provided above regarding per diem allowances. I’m confused.. One agency says $359 per week housing stipend, but the site above says for mist states $91 per month! Again, confused!

  4. David says:

    Hey Christie. In looking at the site, I believe that the “per month” is a typo. Everywhere else on the site, it speaks to a “daily” allowance.

    Taking your $91 times a month would equal $2730, which is a bit more reasonable for a M&I/housing allowance. For the specific breakdown of what portion of that is housing and what portion is M&I, you would have to look through the aforementioned site entering the area for which you are looking.

    When I travel, if I am maintaining my “tax home”, which then allows me to participate in the company’s tax advantage program, I am usually only looking at the M&I portion to determine what I am allowed. This is because I usually take company housing, that can be covered up to 300% of the maximum per diem rate, so I just figure on getting “tax free” housing, rather than having to figure out what portion of my stipend could be taxed.

    If you have tax issues or questions, the best resource would be Joseph Smith over at His webpage at ( is what I consider to be mandatory reading for any traveling healthcare professional.

    I hope this helps.


  5. Helenisa says:

    Hello David Morrison,
    Are you still actively working as a travel nurse?
    I have been bompbed out as of Dec 2017:
    What happened was I signed a contract to start 12/11/2017 I am was in Louisiana the contract I signed with my travel company in Georgia. I and my family was leaving to Brazil to visit our family there to comeback original 12/17/17 however the hospital needed me there to start 12/11/2017 as result I had to change the flights schedules dates- Yes I had to pay up US$ 1,347.00 to be in US to arrive in Georgia on the 12/11/2017.
    I arrived back into US 12/07/2017 only to read an email that the hospital had cancelled my contract. As it stood I missed part of the trip with my family there, lost money in a big way: US $ 1,347.00 to reschedule trip back, lost weekly pay 13 weeks, insurance lapsed, housing deposit US$ 575.00 plus pet fee US$ 400.00.
    At the end of the istorie it was just that: I lost and no resource or wright to get any those cost return.
    Wow I feel that it is just too much power of decision from travel companies and facilities, while the working nurse has no say so…
    Yes, I read your writing to read the ENTIRE contract, but it covers none of what happened in this instance to me

  6. David says:

    Hello Helenisa. I cannot speak to what happened as I do not know the entire situation. If you had at first communicated that you were unable to start on the agreed contract date, then it is possible the hospital elected to find another traveler.

    I feel as if I’m missing something as you stated that you agreed to a start date of 12/11, but seemed to know that you would be unavailable until 12/17.

    In regard to the housing cost, this is an example that I often cite when cautioning against travelers finding their own housing. If you have to pay a deposit of any kind, you do risk that deposit with a contract cancellation.

    If you allow your travel company to provide housing, then it falls back on them (in most instances), should a contract be cancelled.

    You could have called another travel company to see if they had anything in the area and you might have been able to find something that allowed you to keep your housing commitment. I have personally done this on a contract cancellation.

    You do always have the right to speak to an attorney or at the very least, take the travel company to small claims court where you do not need an attorney. You could have a case because you did have actual damages, but again, I feel like there is part of the situation that is missing. That part of the equation would need to be part of any suit brought.

    With every new contract I sign (because I have had two cancellations in my 20+ years of travel), I know that they are possible and I do have extra money in savings should a cancellation occur.

    I’m sorry this happened.


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