How to Boost Your Negotiating Power as a Travel Nurse
As a nurse, you’re probably used to negotiating in the hospital. You negotiate with patients to get them to comply with care protocols, with fellow nurses to cover the needs of your unit, and with your supervisor to work out overtime or shift changes.
But many travel nurses believe that they cannot negotiate their contracts. While it’s true that hospitals may fix pay rates, a contract is more than just your base rate. Negotiating what you need in terms of bonuses, stipends, housing, contract length, and more is a good habit to get into. Here are 7 ways to boost your negotiating power as a travel nurse.
1. Be clear about your needs.
Define your hard lines when it comes to location, duration of assignment, shifts, and compensation — to yourself and to your recruiter. Before even looking at a contract, answer these questions:
- Where are you willing travel? Is it crucial you be near a city? Or would you prefer to be somewhere more rural?
- What are your time constraints? Are you willing to travel even for short contracts? Are you up for extended stays for a good fit?
- What shifts do you need? Do you prefer days, mids, or nights?
- What’s your bottom line when it comes to salary? What compensation package would make you really excited about a contract?
- What housing options are best for the way you like to live?
Along with defining your bottom line, be equally clear about where you have flexibility. Won’t leave home for less than $1,500 but are happy to travel anywhere? Let your recruiter know — it’ll make it that much easier for them to bring you assignments you’re really excited about. And for you to ask them to keep on looking if a contract doesn’t fit the bill.
2. Shop around.
When making a big purchase, you likely check out multiple stores and websites. In the same way, don’t be afraid to shop around when it comes to contracts.
Some agencies have attractive perks in all their contracts, such as primo medical benefits from day 1, the ability to opt in to a retirement fund, or generous bonuses. Others may try to inflate how good their packages are while leaving out the benefits you deserve.
Check out a variety of sample contracts from different agencies. Use this info as a bargaining chip to get what you need.
3. Prioritize what you ask for.
Once you know your requirements and have a good picture of a strong contract, you can take the plunge and ask. And when you do, make sure you keep focus on what’s most important to you.
If your bottom lines are strong pay, a day shift, and medical benefits, don’t be distracted by an offer of better housing. This will help you keep your eye on the prize and not be swayed by offers that may be appealing but don’t really meet your needs.
4. Be confident.
Don’t let fear of confrontation hold you back — a negotiation is just a conversation about your needs and expectations. As a travel nurse, you work hard and your contracts should reflect that. You can go into a contract negotiation confident that your worth what you’re asking for.
5. Be reasonable.
At the same time, you don’t want to go too overboard. If you’re looking for California pay rates on an assignment in Nebraska, that might be a tricky starting off point. If you aim too high, it might make it difficult to move forward.
6. Take your time.
Even when you’re eager to have your next assignment squared away, give yourself a little time to mull over contracts. If you can, take at least one night to sleep on an offer. And don’t sign anything until you’re sure you’re satisfied.
7. Partner with an agency who has your back.
Each of the previous steps will come naturally with a supportive agency. You may not feel the need to ask for more because they will be sure to give you top pay packages and prime contracts from the get-go. They will have already worked to get you the best.
Looking for more on travel nurse pay? Check out our blog on 7 questions to ask about your travel nurse pay package.