Travel Reimbursement 101: What You Need to Know Before Signing a Contract

Cross Country Nurses
August 19, 2016 10:46 AM (GMT-04:00)
CCN Travel Tips
Travel nursing contracts can vary by agency and assignment, and the terms and conditions of reimbursement and compensation are not always spelled out clearly. To guarantee your pay package mirrors your expectations, make certain you fully grasp the language of your written agreement before signing on the dotted line.
Here are some important aspects to consider.
Your contract should state every compensation variable you are expecting, such as your taxable base and overtime pay rate, details of your medical coverage and retirement plan, agency-provided housing and utilities (or lodging stipends), license and certification, travel expense allowance, and your meals and incidentals stipend. 
When choosing between travel nursing opportunities, attaching a dollar amount to each of these variables helps you evaluate the total value of your pay package. Keep in mind that different agencies quote pay rates in different ways. Some quote it hourly, weekly, monthly or even for the duration of the contract; you’ll need to break everything down to a common denominator.
Travel reimbursements to and from your contracted assignment are non-taxable and can vary by agency. Flat-rate and per mile reimbursements are the most common types.
Flat-rate reimbursements typically range between $250 and $500, and the reimbursable amount is usually divided between your first and last paycheck. However, some agencies will provide one lump sum up front. Per mile reimbursements pay you a specified mileage rate when using your own vehicleor a rental. This rate is generally lower than the GSA mileage rate and is usually capped by the agency. Unfortunately, flat rate and per mile reimbursements will not cover all of your travel expenses, such as meals and hotel stays if you are driving the distance to relocate from your home base to your travel locale. Be prepared to foot the bill for these extras, save your receipts and take these added expenses as a year-end tax deduction.
Pay attention to special clauses and penalties.
  • Missed Hours Penalties or Charge-Backs stipulate that you will be penalized a certaindollar amount for every hour not worked in a given pay period. For example, your paycheck may be deducted $20 for every missed contract hour in a two-week period. Essentially, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. However, there is a Guaranteed Hours Clause that ensures you are not penalized for missed hours under certain circumstances. For example, if your shift is cancelled and there is no opportunity to make it up in the future or be floated to another area of the hospital, then you won’t be charged back for the missed shift. Unfortunately, these policies are not always cut and dry and can vary from hospital to hospital. Make sure your contract includes a guaranteed hours clause that is clearly stated.
  • Non-Compete and Exclusivity are sometimes thought to be the same thing, but there is a subtle difference between them. Both clauses are put in place to protect the traveling agency from financial loss. Anon-competeclause stipulates you cannot work for the contracted hospital in any capacity for a specified period of time after your contract is completed, typically one year. However, there may be a buyout clause in the contract that allows the hospital to pay the agency a fee if the hospital wishes to hire you directly once you complete your assignment. An exclusivityclause states that if you wish to work for the contracted hospital after you have completed your contracted assignment, you may not do so through a different agency. However, you are free to be directly hired by the hospital without penalty. In this case, a buyout clause might also be in effect.
  • Cancellation penalties are included in most contracts. The value of the penalty is typically designed to minimize the losses the agency will incur if the travel nurse cancels the contract early. Penalty amounts are determined by compensation variables including, but not limited to, company-provided housing or travel expenses as well as the cancellation fee the hospital charges the agency—which can be valued at one to two weeks’ worth of billing.
Make sure that every special agreement you’ve made with the hospital regarding your working conditions, requested time off and scheduling is included in the contract.
The contract is an agreement between you and your agency—not between you and the hospital. This is an important distinction. The agency has a confirmed master contract with the hospital which is based on their established business relationship and includes expectations for the agency’s contracted workers as well as any restrictions and special considerations. If the items you’ve specified in your contract are not included in this master contract, they may not be honored by the hospital. What’s more, once the agency has sent the confirmation to the hospital, it can be difficult to add items afterwards.
Address any questions or concerns with your recruiter before you take pen in hand.

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