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Travel Nursing Vs. Local Contracts: Your Guide to Getting Started in 2024


November 30, 2023
Matchwell November Blog

Are you a nurse ready to take the plunge into new horizons? Whether you’re contemplating taking on a more “on-the-go” lifestyle of travel nursing or seeking a bit more stability in local contracts closer to home, a career in healthcare travel offers exciting new possibilities.  

Travel vs. Local Contracts: What’s the Difference?  

The distinction between travel and local nursing contracts revolves around location, duration, and terms of the work arrangement. When considering one over the other, it’s important to weigh all of your most important personal preferences, like flexibility, compensation, and career advancement opportunities.  

  • Location
    • Travel nursing: Clinicians work in healthcare facilities that are typically located 50+ miles from their home.
    • Local contract: Clinicians work in healthcare facilities within their local area, usually under 50 miles, requiring only a short commute. 
  • Duration 
    • Travel nursing: Contracts are temporary assignments that typically last between 8 to 26 weeks, although some could extend for longer durations. 
    • Local contract: Contracts vary but are mostly known for shorter-term shifts ranging from per diem to a few weeks.  
  • Purpose
    • Travel nursing: Clinicians are hired to fill in temporary staffing shortages, cover peak seasons, or help facilities that are experiencing higher patient volumes than usual. 
    • Local contract: Clinicians are hired on an as-needed basis, depending on the facility’s needs. This could be to cover unexpected gaps in coverage, like callouts or employees on vacation.  
  • Compensation
    • Travel nursing: Travelers often receive competitive pay rates along with additional benefits, like housing stipends, health insurance, and loyalty and referral bonuses.  
    • Local contract: Most local travel clinicians are hired as independent 1099 contractors, but some organizations, like Matchwell, hire clinicians as W2 employees, ensuring they receive all the benefits and protections that W2 has to offer.  

Basic Requirements to Get Started: 

Before you can officially hit the ground running, both travel nursing and local contract organizations have some basic requirements you must first meet. 

  • Licensure: Obtain a nursing license in the state or country where you plan to work. Each state has its own requirements, fees, and timeframes for processing. Organizations like the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provide helpful resources on licensure by endorsement for different states.  
  • Experience: Typically, agencies or organizations require a minimum of two years of clinical experience in a specialty before you can start travel or local contracts. Because clinicians are expected to hit the ground running at each new assignment, both agencies and facilities want to ensure that your clinical skills are rock-solid.  
  • Certifications: Some assignments may require specific certifications, such as ACLS, BLS, or others. Most agencies will reimburse the cost of specialty certifications needed for traveling an assignment with them.  

Additional resources for aspiring travel or local contract clinicians: 

  • Online forums and groups:  
    • Search Facebook and LinkedIn for public nursing groups for advice, support, and networking with healthcare peers.  
Which Path is Right for You?  

As you gear up for your nursing journey in 2024, the “right” choice depends on your individual goals, preferences, willingness to travel, and the specific demands of the current job market. Whether you’re seeking unique new experiences or more stability in your career, both travel nursing and local nurse contracts are rewarding paths that can take you to new heights! 

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