January 8, 2024

Travel Nurse Tips: How to Compare Pay Packages

Let’s face it: navigating travel healthcare pay packages can be confusing. It’s important for travel nurses and allied travelers to thoroughly understand their travel packages for every assignment and every travel company.

Fortunately, you can learn to decipher every element of your travel pay package so you know exactly what to expect. Read on to discover tips for effectively comparing pay packages for all your future travel assignments.

Hourly Rate Vs. Hourly Equivalent

When looking at job postings, it’s essential to determine if the company has posted the assignment’s hourly rate or hourly equivalent. The hourly equivalent will be much higher than the hourly rate, so knowing which one you’re seeing is important.

Hourly rate: Hourly rate refers to the taxable amount of money you are paid per working hour and does not include per diems (also referred to as stipends) for things like housing, meals, and incidentals.

Hourly equivalent: Hourly equivalent is the hourly rate you are paid per working hour, including per diems for housing and other expenses. Because per diems are always paid at a daily rate, they must be recalculated in an hourly format to be included in the hourly equivalent.

Generally, it’s best not to rely on these advertised rates as a realistic idea of what you can expect to be paid for the jobs listed. Several factors come into play when setting up a contract for a travel nursing assignment, so each scenario is different. Your best bet is to talk with an experienced recruiter who can walk you through the details and help you set up the right contract for your needs.

Look Beyond Estimated Take-Home Pay

When considering a potential travel nursing assignment, it’s easy to focus a little too hard on the estimated take-home pay. It often seems the simplest way to see who offers the best deal. But as your recruiter can help you understand, there’s much more to consider to determine if the contract meets your needs.

Many factors affect your final take-home amount, including housing, meals and incidentals, taxes, and benefits. Even the slightest variation in any of these can affect your take-home pay, so ensure your pay package has been set up exactly to your specifications.

For example, if one company quotes a pay package using an extremely aggressive tax rate, the take-home pay may seem much larger than another company’s. When it comes time to sign the contract, the tax scenario they’ve suggested could be unreasonable for you or put you in a dangerous situation when you file your taxes.

Benefits Make a Big Difference

Some of the most important parts of a pay package aren’t listed with the numbers, at least initially. Each agency’s benefits package surrounding pay and time off can make or break the total amount of money you earn throughout the assignment. As seasoned travelers know, you need to look at your total hours and pay for the whole assignment, not just week to week.

Here are a few benefits we offer at TNAA:

Guaranteed Pay

Many contracts allow a hospital to call off a set amount of shifts without penalty to the hospital.  When that happens, many agencies will not pay their per diem or retract their per diems if the traveler doesn’t work enough hours due to low census. Depending on the contract and the amount of allowable low-census call-offs by the hospital, this could result in a difference of thousands of dollars!

With TNAA, it doesn’t affect your per diems. With Guaranteed Pay, you know exactly how much pay you’ll receive, regardless of canceled shifts.

So, look at it this way: it might appear as if one company is paying $50-$100 more, but if your contract states that the agency has the right to cancel one shift every other week without pay, think about how much money you would lose throughout the entire contract.

Paid Sick Leave

Another benefit that is unique to TNAA is Paid Sick Leave. Without Paid Sick Leave, you could be forced to miss shifts without pay, which adds up quickly! We offer Paid Sick Leave to all our travel nurses working in every state, and it starts accruing from day one of your first assignment. Our nurses can use the time they’ve accrued after 90 days of employment with TNAA and as long as they are actively on assignment with us. Paid sick leave can be taken for personal health reasons, but, with TNAA, paid sick leave also covers certain family health reasons.

Your Way is Paid

Another helpful TNAA benefit is what we call Your Way Is Paid. TNAA pays for or reimburses our travelers for 100% of the costs associated with all licenses, certifications, physical examinations, and immunizations needed when taking an assignment with us. All those fees might be a four-digit expense, equating to the benefit of several dollars per hour of pay! It’s important to remember these benefits when considering the overall value of a pay package.

Health, Dental, Vision, and Liability Insurance

What happens when you’re the one who needs healthcare? Traveling with TNAA means traveling insured. We have you covered from day one with a comprehensive package that offers health, dental, vision, and liability insurance.

One important aspect of insurance coverage for healthcare travelers to consider is how significantly cost and coverage can vary from agency to agency. With a wide variety of coverage options to choose from, you’ll want to factor in your personal health coverage needs, including your level of risk tolerance. Cheaper coverage may mean more money in your pocket, but it can also mean much higher out-of-pocket expenses when you need healthcare. Be sure to choose coverage plans wisely.

Do Your Homework

Comparing pay packages across travel nursing companies can be confusing and downright difficult. Between the package differences between companies and many companies putting important details in the fine print, it’s often hard to make an “apples to apples” comparison. To make the fairest assessment possible, take your time and consider critical factors beyond just the pay you’ll be taking home, like benefits, time off, and taxes.

And, as always, reach out to your recruiter and other support teams with your questions about each contract.

Learn More in TNAA’s Understanding Your Travel Pay Package Masterclass

Want to take the guesswork out of understanding your travel assignment pay package? Watch our Understanding Your Travel Pay Package masterclass featuring TNAA’s COO Jean Cook and Senior Director of Recruitment Donna Dickson. In this on-demand webinar, they share their expert insight to help you understand your pay package for every travel assignment.

Ready to embark on your next healthcare travel assignment? Check out TNAA’s available jobs for travel nurses and allied health travelers.