Can You Be a Travel Nurse in Your Own City?

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Written by Marie Hasty, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse sits in her car and researches, Can you be a travel nurse in your own city?

You may already know that you can take a travel nursing contract in your home state, but can you be a travel nurse in your own city? The short answer is yes. Local travel nurses can fill urgent staffing needs even faster than the average travel nurse, and getting to stay in your own home is a huge bonus of staying local. Local travel nurses can work in clinical areas that include:

When these types of facilities experience an influx of patients, they call on travel nurses to help them care for patients. Facilities may also need travelers if staff leave, go on strike, or get sick. Travel nurses are expected to hit the ground running in a new assignment, which can last a few weeks to a whole year.

While it’s common for travelers to come from other states to complete a contract, local travel nursing agencies and staffing platforms make it possible for nurses to take on contract work where they live. And while you likely won’t get a travel stipend like you would on a typical travel contract, there’s a good chance you’ll still collect a higher hourly rate than as a staff nurse.

Pros and Cons of Local Travel Nursing

There are several benefits and drawbacks to travel nursing. But can you be a travel nurse in your own city and reap the same rewards? Here are a few of the positives and negatives of local travel nursing.

Benefits of Local Contracts

  • Familiarity: Local travel nursing allows you to work where you have roots. You might already know the local healthcare facilities, which can reduce the learning curve associated with new locations.
  • Community: Being a local travel nurse enables you to maintain strong ties with your community. You won’t have to rely on phone calls and social media to keep up with your loved ones.
  • Routine: Unlike traditional travel nursing where you move frequently, working locally provides a level of stability. It might be easier to have a work-life balance when you’re working in your home area.
  • Cost: Local travel nursing eliminates the need for significant moving expenses. You won’t have to worry about finding new housing or uprooting your life for each assignment.
  • Opportunities: A local travel contract is a great way to explore career options on a short-term basis. And if you like a facility, you might be able to stay on and make it a full-time gig.
  • Taxes: Every year, travel nurses must file taxes for every state they’ve worked in for the past 12 months. Local contracts make taxes more simple.

Drawbacks of Local Contracts

  • Monotony: If you enjoy the excitement of exploring new cities and cultures, local travel nursing may lack the sense of adventure associated with traditional travel assignments.
  • Pay: Although local travel contracts still tend to pay more than staff positions, you likely won’t get a travel stipend. You may also be limited by fewer facilities in your area, depending on where you live.
  • Challenge: Facilities with acute staffing needs can be challenging to work in. You’ll be expected to take on a challenging caseload, and potentially feel stressed at work.

Local Travel Nurse Salary

The average travel nurse salary is $76,806. Keep in mind that your salary will depend on your experience level, any extra certifications you carry, and your location. Check out the pay rates on the latest contract nursing jobs to see how much you might earn in your area.

IRS Travel Nurse Rules for Local Contracts

How can you be a travel nurse in your own city and keep taxes simple? Good news — since you’re staying in your home area, there are fewer tax issues to be aware of as a local contract nurse. Keep these tax guidelines in mind if you’re taking a local contract:

  • The IRS gives certain tax breaks for workers who have to travel and stay away from home overnight for work. It’s unlikely you’ll receive a tax-exempt travel stipend during a local contract because you’ll be living at home. If you do get a stipend and you’re living within commuting distance of your facility, you’ll need to pay taxes on it later.
  • If you’re working close to your tax home, you cannot deduct travel expenses from your taxes.
  • Keep hard copies of your travel nursing contracts and paperwork, in case you need to reference them for tax season.

The 50 Mile Rule: Travel Nursing Myth Busting

There’s a common misconception that the IRS requires you to work at least 50 miles from your home in order to take a travel contract. This isn’t true, but some staffing agencies have this rule in place to avoid paying tax-free stipends to nurses that are still able to live at home.

The IRS isn’t explicit about the distance you need to travel to qualify. Here are the guidelines that qualify you for a stipend:

  • Your work duties require that you are away from your home for more than an ordinary day’s work.
  • You need to rest or sleep away from home to meet work demands.
  • Your new work location is temporary (and therefore qualifies you) as long as it’s less than a year.

If you’re working a contract close to home, you likely won’t collect a travel stipend. This is part of the reason why local travel nurses might not have the same take-home pay as nurses who come from farther away.

However, if you do end up collecting a tax-free stipend while working close to home, be sure you set aside a portion of it for tax season. You won’t qualify for the tax exempt rule, so you may end up owing at the end of the year.

Local Travel Nursing FAQs

Do local travel nurses get stipends?

Not usually. Stipends help make up for the cost of traveling, living, and working in a place that’s not your home. Some contracts still include meal and commuting stipends, but if you don’t have duplicate housing expenses, you likely won’t get housing stipends.

How far away do you have to live to be a travel nurse?

Not far away at all. You can take contract nursing roles in your home area. The only difference is, if you don’t need to stay somewhere overnight to do your job, you don’t qualify for a tax-free stipend.

Find Great Local Nursing Jobs

Can you be a travel nurse in your own city? Absolutely. Check out the latest travel nurse jobs to get started.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but it is not intended to constitute professional legal advice for any particular situation and should not be relied on as professional legal advice. Any references to the law may not be current as laws regularly change through updates in legislation, regulation, and case law at the federal and state level. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.