During this pandemic there have been a lot of ‘crisis contracts’ offered to experienced (and brand new) travel nurses, as well as other healthcare providers. A travel nurse crisis contract is a travel nursing assignment that is in an area that is desperate for nurses due to unforeseen circumstances like an overwhelming number of coronavirus patients needing hospitalization). These contracts usually pay well above the average travel nursing salary and are taken on very short notice.
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on every single state in the U.S.. Places like El Paso, TX, Wisconsin, The Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado are watching their numbers exponentially increase- and so have the travel nurse rates. Vivian had COVID travel contracts posted with average pay packages $3500-$4600 per week throughout the Fall of 2020. Most of those contracts were requiring 48 hours. There were even a few 60 hours contracts offering over $7000 per week!
What is the Difference Between a Crisis Contract and a “Regular” Contract?
There tends to be several key differences between the two types of travel nursing contracts:
Length of contract– Traditional travel nursing contracts have always been 13 weeks. In the past, nurses could occasionally find shorter contracts, but it was mostly strike work that lasted less than 2 weeks. The COVID crisis has brought us four, six, and eight week contracts. One company is even offering two week (but 12 shifts!) contracts. This is a nice option for those who don’t want to be away from home for three months at a time.
Pay– Pay for these contracts is pretty closed to topped out. “Regular” travel nurse contracts usually have a taxable hourly wage around $20 per hour, and the blended rate (including the stipends) is around $50-$70 per hour. For the crisis contracts, the stipends are topped out, so agencies are showing increased taxable hourly rates. You may see a taxable hourly wage up to $40 per hour, and a blended rate closer to $90 per hour, including the stipends. For contracts that provide a rental car and hotel, expect the wages to be almost fully taxed, minus a small per diem (no housing stipends are given because they are providing accommodations).
For example- if a contract offers $4500 for 48 hours and provides a hotel + car- nurses will probably take home around $3300, depending on the state that they are paying taxes in. Conversely- if the contract offers $4500 and part of that money is tax-free stipends instead of provided hotel/rental car- the take home pay will be more, but the travel nurse is responsible for finding their own housing and transportation.
Weekly hourly commitment– Many of the high paying crisis contracts are requiring more than 36 hours per week of work time. The majority of the travel nurse crisis contracts are requiring 48 hours per week, and some are even asking for 60 hours per week. Keep that in mind when you are browsing contracts- the gross salaries listed include the overtime rate. One agency (one of the highest paying) is requiring 6 days on, followed by 1 off- for two weeks or more.
If you choose to take a contract with an OT commitment, mentally prepare yourself and make sure you are taking care of YOU on your days off!
Expectations– Chances are, the hospital is paying big money to hire travelers because they are overwhelmed by the number of patients requiring care. As a COVID crisis traveler you are expected to be super-flexible in scheduling and floating to other units. You are there to take care of COVID patients, and that may be the only type of patient you will have contact with. When you arrive at these facilities, try to keep a positive attitude and remember you are there to help them. The staff are probably already very stressed, and travel nurses that are making twice what they are and still complaining aren’t received very well. ICU nurses during this crisis usually stay in their units unless there is a major shift in census or acuity.
Why do Crisis Contracts Pay so Much?
But, why are these travel nurse contracts paying so much money? What is so special about those high pay contracts? Aside from the stress of working so many shifts in a row, these nurses are often being asked to fly to the location without knowing what facility or shift they will be working. In addition to THAT, once they get on site, I’ve heard reports of ICU ratios being 1:3-5 and med-surg ratios up to 12 patients. And the nurses are in PPE 90% of the time.
So, is the money warranted? Yes, of course. I will never say nurses don’t deserve every dime they get. We all deserve the maximum amount of money we can make, especially entering an environment that fees like a war zone. But, that is not anywhere near the historical average travel RN salary. Strike contracts do not even pay that much. I am thrilled that nurses are finally making what they deserve.
But for now, take advantage of the high-paying travel nurse jobs in addition to getting the chance to help out a community in need. Protect yourself, and thank you to all of the nurses out there helping care for the coronavirus patients.