Is Taking an Internal Travel Nurse Contract Right For You?

Travel in Devil's Bridge Trail, man Hiker with backpack enjoying view, Sedona, Arizona, USA

If you’ve been tuning into the latest trends in the travel nurse industry, then you’ve likely heard of some health systems starting to offer internal travel nurse contracts. Hospitals have been doing this for some time but it seems like more are “trying out” this new staffing model recently.

As your travel nurse mentor, I have firsthand experience with these types of assignments (as well as traditional travel nurse assignments) and I’m here to share my experiences. First, let’s answer questions you might have about internal travel nurse contracts.

What Is an Internal Travel Nurse Contract Position?

Internal travel nurses are employed directly by a healthcare organization. Like typical travel nurse contracts, internal travel nurses are usually assigned to work within the organization for a short period of time – ranging from a few weeks to several months – as they fill a temporary need for the hospital that is supplementing travelers during a staffing shortage. Since the traveler is hired directly by the hospital system, it cuts out the “middle man” or the travel nurse agency. There are definitely pros and cons to this, which I’ll explain a little later.

Why Are We Seeing an Increase in Internal Travel Nurse Contracts?

Some healthcare organizations are starting to develop their own internal travel nurse programs in order to have “more control” over their staffing needs and reduce costs associated with using travel nurse agencies. By hiring and managing their own travel nurses, hospitals can profit by avoiding the fees charged by staffing agencies. However, developing an internal travel nurse program can be a complex and resource-intensive process. The hospital must solely manage the recruitment, hiring, compliance, and training of these nurses.

Pros of an Internal Travel Nurse Contract

  1. Exclusive contracts with certain healthcare organizations 
  2. Competitive pay: Internal travel nurses typically earn a higher hourly rate than staff nurses because they are filling in temporary vacancies.
  3. Possibility of getting contracts closer to home without mileage restrictions 
  4. Possibility of working part-time hours or full-time hours

Cons of an Internal Travel Nurse Contract

  1. Benefits and per diems: Depending on the hospital or health system, internal travel nurses may not receive benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, and paid time off.
  2. You are an “at will” employee with the healthcare organization, and they can terminate your contract at any time. Guaranteed hours will likely not be an option and you may be the first to be canceled. 
  3. Internal travel nurses may be responsible for paying for their own travel and relocation expenses out of their own pocket.
  4. Being a direct-hire travel nurse may not provide the same level of flexibility and job opportunities as working through a staffing agency could.
  5. You don’t have a third party, a.k.a. your travel nurse agency, as a buffer and support between you and the hospital organization. 
  6. Bi-weekly pay

Would I Take an Internal Travel Nurse Contract Again?

Although I prefer a traditional travel nursing contract, I would consider taking an internal contract again if I wanted to go to a specific facility that was not offering positions through travel nurse agencies. I would make sure that I fully understood what the contract entails and what benefits they offer and ensure that I have low census protection. Here are my tips for what to make sure you have in your travel nurse contract

Is Traditional Travel Nursing Going Away?

No, travel nursing is not going anytime soon. In fact, the demand for nurses has been increasing over the years. After the pandemic, the burnout rate is at an all-time high and we have seen nurses leaving the bedside in droves, leaving many facilities with a staffing shortage. 

While some hospitals are exploring the option of developing their own internal travel nurse programs, it remains to be seen how widespread this trend will become in the future. Standing up an internal staffing agency can be complicated for health systems. Travel nurse companies continue to play an important role in providing quality healthcare professionals, and traditional travel nursing is likely to remain a critical component of the healthcare workforce in the years to come.

If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse and wondering what option is best for you, take the time to understand the pros and cons of each and identify the option that fits your career goals and lifestyle the best. This could change throughout your career, so it’s okay to revisit the idea when you need it. 

If you have more questions about internal travel nurse contracts or my experience with them, leave a comment or reach out. I’m happy to be your travel nurse mentor.

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