Steps you Need to Take Before Signing a Traveling Healthcare Contract

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Steps you Need to Take Before Signing a Contract:

For Traveling Healthcare Professionals

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So you interviewed for a travel job, and then you get the call from your recruiter that you’ve been offered the position, yay! You sit down and think about the offer at hand and then verbally accept. Now your recruiter sends you a contract that is several pages long and you need to sign ASAP. Here are the steps I recommend to make sure you have a wonderful contract, no unexpected surprises, and little stress!steps you need to take before signing a travel contract: for healthcare professionals


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Step 1: Read every line

Travel positions fill quickly, and once you decide to take an assignment it’s best to get everything signed and wrapped up as quickly as possible. Travel contracts are lengthy, wordy, and sometimes confusing. I suggest sitting down with your computer in front of you and a notebook/word document and start reading every line. Take notes of anything that you don’t understand and copy and paste to your recruiter and ask for clarification.I suggest keeping everything in an email so any clarification from your recruiter is in writing.

Step 2: Review pay details and dates

Sounds silly, but make sure the dates of your contract are correct! Sometimes the wrong dates are written in error and you want to make sure that the onboarding process goes as smoothly as possible. Your contract will have pay broken down into two or three parts. The first part will be your taxable income and this rate will be per hour.

Tax-free stipends are typically presented on a per day or per week format. Some companies keep this in one lump sum while others break it down further into housing, meals, etc. If you want to know what the typical per diem rate is for an area check the GSA rate here. This is the highest per diem rate allotted by the IRS for certain location. This will give you a good idea of the cost of living in a certain area. Keep in mind your per diem rate most likely won’t be the highest number as the agencies need to take some of the bill rates for their company overhead. If your stipends are per day they will be dispersed seven days a week but make sure you clarify this with your agency. You will want to make sure that the taxable rate and stipends add up to the initial pay package your recruiter told you prior to submittal.

Steps you Need to take before signing a travel contract

Step 3: Confirm mileage reimbursement

When you travel in between assignments you get “travel reimbursement.” How this is calculated, is by looking at how many miles are in between your current and next location. These miles are then multiplied by the per mileage rate. Some travelers have different thoughts regarding travel reimbursements. It’s true that this lump sum of money gets taxed. It might be more beneficial to receive that money dispersed throughout the three-month contract and move it to nontaxable pay. I prefer the travel reimbursement because I like to have the money I just had to front for travel in my first paycheck, even though if it is all taxed.

If your position is home health pay close attention to mileage reimbursement and travel radius. Make sure the mileage per diem is what you agreed to prior to being submitted to this particular assignment.  It’s a really good idea to have a clause that does not require you to travel more than 30 miles (or whatever you are comfortable with) from the company’s local office.

When census gets low, a company may ask you to travel to other districts to help out. This can add a lot of driving you may not want to do. The good thing is if you decide that you’re willing to travel further and both parties agree, it wouldn’t be a problem. Having this radius clause is to ensure that the client cannot make you travel far on a regular basis. This clause also ensures a client cannot fire you if you decline patients that are out of the radius. Typically for nursing homes, they may ask you to travel to another facility if census picks up or drops in one of the facilities. Make sure you have an agreed per mileage rate and make sure the travel time will be paid for. This is to make sure that you are not required to clock out for the time driving in between facilities.

Step 4: Review guaranteed hours and unworked Hours

I would not recommend taking a contract without any guaranteed hours. Despite what anyone tells you census rise and drop with no warning and for no rhyme or reason. Obviously, 40 hours guaranteed is the best option but sometimes this is not an option. I try not to accept any guaranteed hours less than 35 but the lowest I have accepted is 32. I found with larger rehab companies, there are certain policies regarding guaranteed hours that cannot change. Make sure your agreed guaranteed hours is in the contract.

There is typically a clause in your contract that addresses hours called off by the worker. This involves when there is available work but you do not work for whatever reason. This clause looks scary because not only will you not get paid for hours not worked, but you may also receive a pay deduction. This is pretty standard and it’s rare that it would come down to this. The agency cannot afford to pay a contract worker pay and stipends if they continuously do not work.

These penalties will not happen if the facility does not have enough work for you to meet required minimum hours. This is why guaranteed hours are so important! In the past, if I have pre-approved days off, I have not been penalized. I just am not paid for the days not worked which is pretty standard. This is something that you should definitely confirm with your recruiter before signing. Don’t forget to get everything in writing!

Steps you need to take before signing a travel contract

Step 5: Review non-compete clauses

Non compete clauses is another clause that is standard in most contracts. The clause will typically state that you cannot work for the client for one year after your last day is completed. This means that you cannot extend or return within a year and work at the same place with a different travel agency. If you decide that you would like to a become permanent staff member then there is typically a fee the client would have to pay your agency. Luckily the therapist is not too involved, this is something that the client and travel agency would work out. The client pays a fee to the agency for finding such an awesome worker!

Step 6: Scheduled Days Off

Any dates you would need off during the contract length, make sure to inform your recruiter ahead of time. These days off would be approved prior to you accepting the position. Make sure the correct dates are listed in your contract as well as the name of the person who approved them.

It’s difficult to schedule in-person CEU courses when you travel. Check out for online CEUs. My readers can get $175 off a one-year subscription (access to hundreds of online courses) by clicking here or using the code “tinyvan” at checkout.

Step 7: Productivity Clauses

If you take only one thing from the post let it be to NEVER sign productivity clauses. I have never seen this in a contract of mine, but I have been hearing about it more and more lately. Productivity is difficult to meet in most settings especially skilled nursing facilities. If there is a clause that deducts pay due to not meeting productivity standards, chances are they have had issues with staff meeting these productivity standards. A travel assignment can be stressful enough no sense in worrying about productivity reducing your pay. Again, please do not sign these contracts. The more of us that stop accepting these conditions, the more likely these clauses will disappear.

Step 8: Sign and Savesteps you need to take before signing a travel contract

After all the details are ironed out and you received clarification on all concerns time to sign the contract. It’s best to print or save the contract and have it on hand for reference if concerns should arrive. I also would suggest saving all emails concerning the contract in a folder in your email. This way the email does not get accidentally deleted if you need them later on.

The travel healthcare professional world is constantly changing and it’s hard to keep up sometimes. Always make sure you fully understand a contract before signing!

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

10 Comments on “Steps you Need to Take Before Signing a Traveling Healthcare Contract”

  1. I have a question about signing a travel contract. What happens if you’ve signed a contract and a better opportunity pops up before your start date? Are you allowed to resign before your start date? Or are you obligated to start at your signed contract?

    1. Hi Siedah, you are obligated to whatever the terms of your contract are (typically 2 weeks or 30-day notice.) You can cancel your contract if something better comes along but your word is everything in this industry and I wouldn’t recommend that. If you sign a contract it is best practice to stick with that contract :).

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