5 Things to Include in a Travel Nurse Contract

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Aldo Zilli, Esq. Senior Manager, B2B Content, IntelyCare
A nurse getting out of her car, fulfilling her duties in accordance with a travel nurse contract.

During staffing shortages, it may be in your facility’s best interest to hire travel nurses. They’re experienced nurses available to quickly fill urgent staffing needs. Travel nurses require little training and may be ready to staff your unit with just a few weeks’ notice.

Even if a nurse is ready to begin working, there will be administrative red tape to go through first. A traveler must enter into an agreement with the facility outlining the expectations for the contract period. Save time getting travelers into your facility by creating a contract template with all the essential details. Here’s a look at what you can put in a travel nurse contract to help protect the facility and the nurse.

Why Do You Need a Contract?

A travel nursing contract is a legally binding agreement that covers the terms and conditions of the working relationship for a nurse’s assignment. An agreement is made between the nurse, facility, and a third party (such as an agency). Travel agencies communicate the nurse’s requests — such as requested time off or shift preferences — to the facility.

If you’re in charge of approving a travel nurse contract, be prepared to negotiate. You’ll also need to be familiar with what makes a travel nurse’s gig unique.

Important Components of a Travel Nursing Contract

Start by making the contract personal — include the nurse’s legal name and permanent address and the unit, facility, and address for the assignment. Then, create sections to cover the details surrounding the expectation of the role. Here are five key areas that you should consider including in your contract:

1. Dates and Scheduling

The standard travel contract is 13 weeks, but it may be shorter or longer depending on the facility’s needs and the nurse’s availability. Even if it’s just a four-week travel nurse assignment, define the expectations in the contract, with details like:

  • contract start and end dates
  • nurse’s contracted time off
  • schedule expectations for shift type, weekends, and holidays
  • on-call requirements
  • number of shifts per week

You can also add “total contracted hours” to detail how many hours the nurse will work. For example, on an 8-week travel nurse contract, the nurse is expected to work 288 hours. If the facility promises guaranteed hours, include it here. This means the nurse can pick up a shift in the event of a cancellation.

Tip: This is a good place to specify who does the scheduling. Let the nurse know whether they’re expected to self-schedule or their shifts are set by someone else.

2. Compensation

In addition to hourly wages, travel nurses are compensated for the costs associated with working away from home. A compensation package may include things like travel reimbursements, a housing stipend, and a daily per diem called “meals and incidentals.”

In this section, describe how the nurse’s total compensation package is allocated. Items to add include:

  • taxable base for contracted regular hours
  • taxable base rate for overtime hours
  • on-call and call-back rates
  • travel reimbursements
  • housing stipend
  • meals and incidentals

You may want to detail how monthly stipends are divided (for example, if the housing stipend is divided into weekly checks). Keep in mind that while hourly pay is taxed, payments like housing stipends are considered nontaxable income. Consider adding information like pay frequency (weekly, biweekly, etc.) and timesheet reporting.

3. Facility-Based Expectations

This section covers facility-specific nursing duties for the role. Clarify floating expectations, such as the potential to float to other departments.

If the facility requires vaccinations or additional certifications, list them here. It’s the traveler’s responsibility to complete mandatory items and confirm state-based licensure before starting an assignment.

4. Cancellation and Missed Shift Policies

If there is any chance of a traveler’s contract being canceled, provide a disclaimer. Occasionally, travel nurses’ contracts are canceled before or during an assignment due to:

  • budget concerns
  • a drop in patient census
  • overstaffing
  • the nurse’s inability to fulfill the contract

The contract should state whether a facility can cancel a contract and when, and how far from a start date it can be canceled.

Call-out policies may also be covered in this section. If a nurse self-cancels a shift, will they be required to make up shifts? Will they lose money from the monthly housing stipend for a missed shift? You may also want to provide names and numbers of who a nurse should call on a sick day.

5. Additional Agreements

Prior to signing a contract, a hiring manager should have spoken to the travel nurse to discuss the position. If any agreements were made during the travel nurse interview process, include them here. Examples include:

  • travel nurse will not float to other facilities
  • light duty due to a physical restriction
  • no rotating shifts in the same week

Tip: Experienced travelers may compare a travel nurse contract to those from other assignments. Be flexible about honoring reasonable requests to assure the nurse will move forward with your facility.

Let IntelyCare Handle the Details

Ready to bring temporary nursing staff to your facility? Drafting travel nurse contracts can be time-consuming and tedious — but not if you partner with IntelyCare. We handle all the details, from nurse credentialing to onboarding. Collaborate with us to get nursing into your facility.

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.