Navigating New Employment Models in Travel Nursing

Written by Health Providers Choice on Thursday, March 21, 2024 Posted in On the Job


Ever since Florence Nightingale embarked on her life-changing Crimean War mission, travel nurses have been vital in ensuring accessible and quality healthcare across geographic boundaries. But the landscape of travel nursing is undergoing a significant transformation. Driven by changing healthcare demands and the allure of greater flexibility, new employment models are emerging, challenging the traditional agency model.

From independent contractor arrangements to technology-driven platforms and hybrid solutions, nurses now have an expanding array of options to navigate. But do any of them beat working with a tried and trusted travel nurse agency?

The rise of independent contractor models

While it’s not the newest employment model, the number of independent contractor travel nurses has risen in recent years. Under this model, nurses operate as their own businesses, securing contracts directly with hospitals and managing their own taxes, benefits, and liability insurance. Nurses who advocate for themselves in this way face a balance of pros and cons:

  • Pros: By negotiating for themselves, nurses can potentially earn a larger share of the overall compensation package offered by a contract. They also have more autonomy in choosing locations, specialties, and contract terms. Independent contractors can set their own schedules and work as much or as little as they desire.
  • Cons: Independent nurses are responsible for self-employment taxes and may need to hire an accountant. Unlike traditional agency placements, they typically don’t receive benefits such as health insurance or paid time off. Contractors are also personally liable for any malpractice or negligence claims arising from their work.

Technology-driven platforms and direct contracting

Technology is playing an increasingly prominent role in connecting travel nurses with hospitals. Apps and online platforms have emerged to allow nurses to create profiles, browse available assignments, and contract with facilities directly. While travel nursing is more accessible through these tech-driven systems, there are also more risks:

  • Pros: Nurses can quickly find opportunities based on their preferences and qualifications. Platforms often provide detailed information about assignments, including pay rates, facility details, and contract terms. Both nurses and hospitals also save time and resources by managing contracts and communication through these systems.
  • Cons: Fees are often involved with a membership to placement portals and job marketplaces. There’s also no telling how reputable the parties using these platforms are. In a worst-case scenario, an oversaturated marketplace could have travelers undercutting themselves for less-than-lucrative contracts.

Hybrid models and the future of travel nursing

With the limitations of independent contracting and technology platforms, the travel nursing agency model continues to be the preferred mode of placement for many travel nurses. But it’s important to recognize the potential for a hybrid approach.

Hybrid models typically see nurses working primarily with an agency while keeping tabs on desirable contracts. As more facilities turn to travel nursing, ambitious nurses will have ample opportunities — often through their agency but sometimes via their own channels.

Travel nursing agencies remain essential

Navigating travel nursing employment models requires careful consideration and a keen understanding of the opportunities and risks. Although independent contractor roles offer autonomy and potentially higher pay, they come with tax implications and reduced benefits. Online platforms can streamline the matching process, but concerns about fees and quality control linger. Ultimately, for many travel nurses, the agency model remains the best one. Working with a company that’s aligned with your interests, goals, and expectations is still the most effective way to build a strong travel nursing career.

The world of travel nursing contracts can be daunting. If you’re looking for a partner you can trust, contact a Health Providers Choice recruiter today. They’ll help find a contract that fits you and assist in building your career as a travel nurse. Contact us online or call 888-299-9800 to learn more.