Travel Nursing

What Are Local Agency Travel Nurse Contracts?

Travel nurses sometimes don’t travel far from home. Some nurses work as local agency nurses but this can mean a few different things. Both pay well and usually offer a variety of work settings. Local agency nurses usually work full-time, but there may be some that work per diem within a specific healthcare system.

Local Agency Nursing for Healthcare Systems

The first type of local agency travel nurse is nurses who are hired by an agency that is owned by a healthcare system. A good example of this is the Memorial Hermann-owned float pool agency in Houston, Texas. Another example is the relationship between HealthTrust Workforce Solutions and HCA hospitals. In locations where there are numerous HCA hospitals, HealthTrust usually operates a ‘local float pool’ that they source out to the surrounding facilities. These huge hospital systems have sub-agencies that help fill their staffing holes and allow them to float nurses between facilities in one given area. It can help decrease the need for outside travel nurses and offer staff a chance for different experiences. 

Nurses who do this type of local agency nursing often have a permanent residence in the area. The pay is better than local permanent staff pay because the nurses are being compensated for floating between facilities. They are usually told at least a day in advance where they may be going, but some systems do not let the nurses know until the morning of the assignment. Some local agencies offer local contracts – and allow these nurses to contract at one of the close hospitals for weeks or months at a time. But. they are not on a signed contract with the agency itself, only with a specific facility. This type of employment is considered permanent but as an agency nurse or registry nurse.

What Is a Local Travel Nurse Contract?

Another type of local agency nursing is in the form of taking a contract but as a local traveler and receiving a fully taxed wage. Travel nurses usually receive tax-free stipends to cover housing, meals and incidental expenses. The nurse is only entitled to those stipends if they can claim a permanent tax home a specified distance from the facility where they’re working. While the health system may require this distance to be 50 miles, the IRS doesn’t state an actual distance. Local agency travelers often live in the same location as the facility or close by, therefore preventing them from getting the tax-free stipends. 

Can I Work as a Local Travel Nurse?

You can still work as a traveler and tell the recruiter you know you won’t be eligible for the tax-free stipends, but you want the job. Your hourly rate should stay the SAME. The pay is usually told to travel nurses as a blended rate – meaning how much you make per hour including any taxable income plus the stipends. That hourly rate should be the same as a local traveler, but the local travel nurse takes home less net pay (after taxes) because their entire wage will be taxed. This scenario would be the same if a nurse took travel contracts all over the country but had no permanent tax home. Most of the time, the salary is still higher than the fully taxed wages that staff nurses make.

To learn more, read our travel nurse pay breakdown article for additional information.

Whether you work as an agency nurse within a healthcare system or as a local traveler, it’s a great way to get your feet wet in travel nursing.

Rachel Norton BSN, RN

Rachel Norton became an RN in 2007 and has been part of the Vivian team since 2019. She has always worked in critical care, and spent the first 12 years of her career working in a surgical neuroscience trauma ICU. She's also worked as a flight nurse, started travel nursing in 2010 and continued working in the ICU until joining Vivian full-time in 2022. As a user researcher, Rachel advocates for healthcare workers to help bridge the gap between employee and employer expectations.

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