After you have narrowed down various Travel Nursing Job offers you may want to contact the travel recruiter at this point via email if you haven't done so already to start getting answers to questions from your recruiter question lists and housing question list.
Start with the your most important questions first. What is important may vary from person to person. You may start with discussing the pay rate and how it works, shifts available, start date , reimbursements then move to more detailed questions as your questions are answered to your satisfaction.
No use discussing getting a microwave or an apartment with a washer/dryer if the pay rate is not even suitable. Be patient but not a pushover. Negotiating is a process and doesn't end in the first call always. Keep the lines of communication open.
Remember it is the whole package that will decide if you sign or not. So if one part of the package is lacking another part can make up for it. Many times though it may be obvious that the package is poor and hopelessly non-negotiable. At this point tell the recruiter you are not interested so they can move on too. Recruiters are limited by what their bosses will allow them to do or what the Hospital base rate is but most of the time there is wiggle room.
There are various hidden perks that can keep communication going like a recruiter and company that is flexible and will work with you on finding the right housing with amenities. Sometimes if you give something you can get something such as signing for 6 months or longer than 3 months.
Use your imagination to make a deal that works for them and you (Win/Win). Sometimes you have to put your foot down and say what your needs are and be able and willing to back off if they don't meet those needs.
Having the financial resources and/or alternate assignments allows you to do this with confidence and less nervous nail biting and sweating. When you are in great need of money and desperate and worried your ability to negotiate calmly is lost.
You may be using Travel Nursing as a way to shop for a perm job so discuss clauses in the contract that may prevent this or limit this.
Ask what the housing stipend is to get an idea on how much they are spending for your housing but this may not be the amount they are actually spending. They may be getting a discount or not. Ask the leasing agent anonymously the cost of a short term rental, then figure in furniture rental, utilities and such to get a closer estimate. Many of the Apartment Search Engines have 1 800 numbers to the leasing agent so you can get this info.
Always have a 8 X 11 paper pad and calculator when talking to the recruiter to write out the entire package with options and make quick calculations. This will enable you to go over the deal after talking with the recruiter and analyze the info more and maybe do further research before calling back again and continue negotiating.
Please inform other recruiters you have been talking to or communicating with if you decide on another assignment as professional courtesy and for the fact they may have a deal for you later in your career. Avoid alienating future opportunities although it may be inevitable at times. Send an email out informing recruiters who you've been communicating with that you have taken an assignment and when your next availability date is and thank them for their time once the deal is finalized.
This is why I like to get to the point and stay focused on getting answers and negotiating instead of wasting their time and mine, which doesn't mean interrogating either.
The recruiter has to please the hospital and talking on the phone is a way for them to assess if you come across as competent person. So always try to be prepared to talk in a private , quiet setting where you have access to paper and a calculator (your friends). If you are talking on the cell phone in your car while other people are present and laughing and you are in terrible traffic on a major road believe you will not come across as competent.
Keep a record of what was discussed on the telephone. With email you always have a record but email is a bad medium when you get to the intricate part of the negotiation where there needs to be a rapid back and forth communication. Make sure all agreements are written clearly within the contract and both recruiter and the manager of the unit are aware of them.
Agreements can be solidified more by having the recruiter agree via email. Email that keeps a record of past communications is handy. You do this by using the same original email to reply with and keep it in a folder you can easily find.
Are the hours per week guaranteed?
While you are on assignment and the census is real low and you get called off will they still pay you?
Is there any floating required to other units? What units? If you don't want to float make sure it is written in the contract.
Is there a completion Bonus? How much? Can you work it into a reimbursement or per diem or into the pay rate (bonuses are usually taxed more than your pay) ?
Is there a renewal bonus? (If this is a renewal or extension contract) Negotiate for this because the facility would have a trained staff and no additional Travel pay for another Traveler.
What type of Unit is it? Staffing? Other Support Staff?
What shifts will you work? Will you have to float to other shifts or do rotating shifts?
Will you have to be on call? What is the on call pay?
Base pay rate per hour? Overtime pay rate? Holiday pay?
What Holidays does the Travel Nursing Company have?
Will you have to be Charge RN? How often? Is there Charge Pay? How Much?
Possible Extensions? What is the max amount of extensions allowed? How much time will you have to be gone before you come back after you are maxed out?
Is there a clause to prevent you from being hired as a perm employee? If there is for how long? Can the Hospital pay a fee to release the clause? Ask that they delete it which they may if they want to sign you.
If you are sick can you make up shifts? Will they deduct for Housing costs related to the time you are sick? Can you extend contract if you are sick for example a week? (some companies won't bother you if it is maybe 2-3 days in an assignment or will work with you if it is more so it is wise to discuss this possibility).
If you extend can you have some time off between? Will you be charged for housing costs if you still want to maintain the same housing? Depends how long but if you have to pay see if you can exchange a bonus for these costs. If you may need sometime in the middle of an assignment for something very important and brief give your recruiter and manager forewarning and come up with a possible plan.
Supplied Car Rental or Car Rental Reimbursement? If you don't take how much more paid?
Airfare paid? How much? If you don't take how much more paid?
Travel Pay? How much?
Do they do the Tax Advantage Program? Details?
Temporary Housing Questions....
Closeness to facility? (verify through mapquest or googlemaps)
Can you take part in selecting housing that they will lease for you? Saying you will consider what they have if they consider what you find. (Negotiating)
Any Deposits? (Shouldn't be or very minimal like a pet deposit)
Will they cover utilities? Which ones? Up to what limit? (Be aware many Travel Nurse Agencies cover everything except maybe phone, sometimes cable)
What exactly is in the furniture package? What size Bed? What size TV? (Bed , Nightstand, Sofa, Coffee Table, Recliner-type chair, Side Table, 2 lamps, sometimes Art) Some Corporate Apartments come with a real nice furniture package because the owners supply it rather than the Travel Nursing Company renting. Do your Research.
Is there a house wares package? (Pots, Pans, Dishes, Glasses, spoons, forks, knives, kitchen utensils, microwave, towels, sheets)
Washer & Dryer? Dishwasher? If not where is the Laundry Room? On the same floor? How many W/D's ? Costs? ( I like to be able to wash my clothes when I want to, No Charge.)
Cable? Basic? Phone? High-speed Internet? (Some places do have wireless)
Number of days you can move in prior to Start Date of Assignment? Number of Days to Move out after Last Day of Assignment?
Which Floor? End Unit? ( I prefer Top Floor End Unit For Quiet & Security but check the layout online for physical problems such as near a busy street, parking, pool)
Central A/C Heat? (Always ask . Remember without it you may need to open windows which invites noise, light, pollution and even bugs or thieves.)
Square Feet of apartment ? ( I've seen pictures stretched on the Internet and people lie about the exact square footage. For the most part if it is listed on a major apt search engine it usually is right but if it isn't you should find out through feedback from other Travelers on Travel Nurse Forums or Apartment Ratings).
Name of the Apartments and address? (With that info alone you can find a lot of info on the Internet and also calling the leasing agent.)
Travel Nursing Company Benefits…
Health Insurance? Name of Company? 1st Day Coverage? Can they email Basic Info about the coverage?
Reimbursement for carrying your own health insurance? How much? ( I prefer carrying my own. Blue Cross Blue Shield which is good almost everywhere. This way I have direct control of my insurance and if I change to another company no hassle. Negotiate the reimbursement . I've received up to $300/month and as low as $125/month . Really depends on the whole package.
401K? Matching? How much? Start Date?
Referral Bonuses? For referring other Travelers and How much? When do you receive it? How many times can you receive it?
Bonuses? End of assignment? Extending an Assignment? Beginning of assignment? Loyalty Bonus or Rewards?
Reimbursement for Continuing Education?
Reimbursement for Licensure ?
Questions to Ask the Hiring Manager…
Note: Many of the questions you asked the recruiter regarding the facility need to be asked to the Hiring Manager too. This is important because they may have a better answer and so the recruiter and the hiring manager are reading from the same script. There is a contract between the Facility and the Travel
Nursing Company that you don't see. This contract may vary from the one you have between Your Travel Nurse Company and You. For this reason you need to verify things. Also if the Hiring Manager is not the direct Manager of the Unit I would ask to speak with that manager if possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This will also give you a chance to read that person and their management style.
Staffing Grid? Or Formula?
Shift or shifts working? Can you get your shifts back to back the same days each week or spaced out etc.? (Now is the time to negotiate this and IF they agree you may want this written in the contract)
Assistive Staff? What do they do?
How many Travelers? Have any extended?
Various procedures depending upon your specialty?
Orientation ? Classroom hours? Orientation Hours on each unit you will work? If there are classes to take later in your Travel Nursing Assignment will they adjust your schedule if you don't want to go over hours and agree to let you know well in advance?
Layout of the unit, size of Nurses Station, interview rooms, other necessary rooms?
Turn over of patients? Length of Stay? Average census?
Ask why they are using Travelers and how Travelers are treated by the perm staff. You may want to wait until later in the conversation to ask this one and pay close attention to the response noting any hesitations.
NOTE: Scrutinize assignments that show up on the radar frequently throughout the year which may be a sign that the hospital was not Traveler Friendly at all. Get feedback from other Travelers.
Tax Advantage programs allow you to receive a tax free reimbursements to cover meals & incidentals and lodging expenses or to receive tax free Travel Nursing Company supplied housing.
To participate in the Tax Advantage Program you need to maintain a residence as a renter or owner in your permanent resident location and state with associated expenses and be working away from this residence on a temporary assignment living in a separate temporary residence. This permanent residence is called a Permanent Tax Home as defined by the IRS.
You should have connections to this address such as: Drivers License, Insurances, Professional License, Voters Registration, Property Taxes and other various bills connected to the Permanent Tax Home. It is advisable to return there between assignments if possible, apply for jobs there, do business there, even work there if possible.
Generally if you reside in another state or same state, different location, for more than a year you can lose your Permanent Tax Home status. Keep documentation of these activities to keep the information organized and easily at hand if you needed it. The Travel companies usually just have you fill out a form verifying you Permanent Tax Home.
The Travel Nursing Company will give you a tax free reimbursement per day that you are on an assignment staying in temporary housing away from your Permanent Tax Home (Meals & Incidentals and Lodging or Company supplied Tax Free Housing). This per day reimbursement is different where ever you go.
The Federal Government has a web site:Domestic Per Diem Rates - US General Services Administration that supplies this information.
The rates on this website are in reality reimbursements figured for government employees traveling to, staying in hotels and/or eating in other cities for work purposes. The costs a Traveler will incur on a daily basis may not be as much depending on various factors generally because the Traveler is usually staying at least 3 months and buying groceries mostly instead of eating out for every meal. That could be different if you are on a short term contract such as a Strike.
Some Travel Nurse Agencies may not use the max rate all the time unless it reflects more in reality the true costs. This Tax Free Reimbursement is separate from your Pay Rate which IS taxed.
Some Travel Nurse Companies that are new to this get confused and think the reimbursement is per day that you work but that is wrong. It is per day that you are on assignment residing in that area in temporary housing away from your Permanent Tax Home.
There is no 50 or 80 mile radius rule with the IRS. Those rules are more so rules with Travel Nursing Companies and/or Hospitals to set some standard for being away from home or to prevent perm or potential perm staff in the area from converting to Travelers (Hospital Rule).
Travel Nursing Agencies if they are supplying temporary housing will only use the the meals and incidentals max rate to figure the tax free reimbursement although you will not be taxed for your housing supplied.
If you are receiving a housing stipend instead of the Travel Nurse Agency supplying the housing, the Travel Nurse Company will use both the per day Lodging Rate and the per day Meal & Incidentals rate to calculate your total tax free reimbursements depending on how those rates reflect true costs for you in that area.
Below are some examples of how some companies figure Tax Advantage reimbursements.
Government site reports a per day rate for Meals & Incidentals of $25/day for a certain locale.
They are saying the maximum you would spend per day for Meals & Incidentals is $25
$25/day X 7 days = $175/week $25 X 30 = $750/ month (Tax Free Reimbursements)
Alot of Travel Nursing Companies will also figure it into a virtual pay rate to see the actual value that you get in terms of $'s/hour.
Let's say you work 36 hours/week with a pay rate of $28/hour and you get $475/week in tax free reimbursements (Meals & Incidentals + Housing Stipend for this example)
$475/week divided by 36 hours/week worked
= $13.19/hr Virtual pay rate
$28/hr Actual Pay Rate + $13.19/hr Virtual pay rate
= $38.19/hr (Actual pay rate + Virtual pay rate)
This is only a way to for you to see total value. Your pay check stub or contract should avoid the above language because tax free reimbursements are not pay rates.
If you are supplied housing by the Travel Nurse Company you could still convert it to a virtual pay rate if you know the housing costs + meals and incidentals reimbursement.
If you were Not a Tax Advantage Traveler you would have to pay taxes on your supplied housing or housing stipend and you could not receive Meals & Incidental Tax Free Reimbursements either.
If you are NOT offered the Tax Advantage Program but you DO maintain a Permanent Tax Home you can deduct expenses that are above what is covered by the Travel Nursing Agency at the end of the year so keep a record of these expenses and keep receipts.
Even as a Tax Advantage Traveler you need to keep track of reasonable expenses above what is covered by the Travel Nursing Company such as Medical Expenses, Travel Costs, Mileage to location, Mileage to and from Facility from Temporary Housing times number of trips.
When you deduct these things the dollar amount that ends up in your tax return is not as much as you would get receiving the Tax Advantage tax free reimbursements. That is why people are are attracted to Tax Advantage Programs.
Some disadvantages of being a Tax Advantage employee are:
Lower reportable income which may affect getting loans based upon your income. With the competition for loans these days I would think this has little effect especially if you have good credit. Some banks are friendly towards nurses or healthcare professionals. They consider them reliable borrowers because there is a great demand for healthcare jobs and other factors . The right bank or credit union, good credit and the right loan officer can be more important than the higher reportable income.
Your Social Security you get when you retire is based upon your reportable income. So if you make less reportable income you will get less money when you retire from Social Security.
Solution: You take some or all of the extra amount you get and invest it wisely and have even more when you retire.
Some people just don't want the hassle of returning home and maintaining a permanent residence or being limited in how long they can stay in another state. You may still be able to maintain residency in another state without the requirement of having an Official IRS Defined Permanent Tax Home.
Avoid Contracts where the Travel Nursing Company pays an Extremely Low Pay Rate which is below the norm for your profession for that location such as $10/hr along with the Tax Free Reimbursements. You don't want to get mixed up with Travel Nurse Companies that may get you in trouble with the IRS.
This only a general article and you should seek the advice and guidance of a Tax Professional experienced in working with Traveling Professionals. I've listed some below along with some other helpful websites.
Travel Tax - Joe Smith is the go to expert for Healthcare Traveler Taxes. Definitely read and understand all of his articles on the subject. He also is readily available for questions on Delphi Forums - Travel Nurses and Therapists.
Kobaly Traveler Tax Service - A number of articles available here as well.
Hicks Tax Service
Muret Tax Services
GSA USA Per Diem Rates
Dinkytown Financial Calculators
Pay Check City Calculators