Travel Nurse vs Local Nurse: Benefits, Salary & More

If you’re a new nurse interested in travel nursing, you may wonder what the profession requires. Is it possible to take a travel nurse contract without living a nomadic life, hopping from state to state?

The answer is yes—all thanks to local contracts.

Taking care of a family at home? Don’t want to lose money on rent while traveling? Local nurse contracts give the flexibility of travel nurse contracts without requiring you to change locations. You can work a per diem job locally. 

If you’re curious about making travel nursing work for you, this guide covers everything you need to know to decide between travel nursing vs. local nursing contracts.

What Is a Local Nursing Contract?

As a healthcare professional, you’ve probably heard of travel nursing. But what is a local nurse contract? And how is it any different from travel contracts?

A local nurse contract is similar to a travel nurse contract with one major difference—a mileage rule. To work locally, every facility will impose a rule that states the maximum distance that a nurse could live from the premises. 

If you live within that distance, you could receive a local nursing contract and work a per diem job without travel. If you live beyond that distance, you would only qualify for a travel nursing contract.

Beyond that, a typical local nursing contract will outline every aspect of your job, including your:

  • Compensation – Like travel contracts, local contracts will usually pay you based on the number of days you work—a.k.a.,  per diem. While pay varies from location to location, most per diem nursing pay is quite competitive. 
  • Duration – Both local contracts and travel contracts last about 13 weeks on average. However, this can go up to 26 weeks depending on the job and location.
  • Hours and scheduling – A local nursing contract will outline the amount of work required of you, including total shifts per week, shift length, and any time off. However, local nurses often get the freedom to choose their shifts ahead of time, a system known as block booking. This means you can change your shift times from week to week, fitting your schedule to match your needs.
  • Benefits – Seeking family-wide health insurance? Interested in starting a 401(k) account? You don’t have to take a staff job to receive top-tier job benefits. Nursing agencies, like MAS Medical Staffing, can help you find the local nursing jobs that provide the employee benefits you desire.
  • Overtime pay – Whether staffed or contracted, all nursing jobs are eligible for overtime pay. The minimum hours per week for overtime pay are set by state law, not the healthcare facility. Typically, overtime pay starts at 40 hours per week.

The “50 Mile Rule” Misconception

In the travel nursing world, there’s a common misbelief that all healthcare facilities have a “50 miles rule”—i.e., if you live more than 50 miles away, your contract must include travel nursing benefits like tax-free housing stipends. However, this is not true. 

According to the IRS, the only requirements to receive tax-free stipends are as follows:

  • Your duties make you leave the general area of your tax home longer than an ordinary day’s work
  • Your duties require you to get adequate sleep or rest while away from home.

If a nursing contract creates these conditions, then it is by default a travel job—not a local job. The facility should then provide you with tax-free stipends for housing, food, or any other basic needs. However, if you refuse these tax-free stipends (for example, if you already have housing nearby), then the contract may default to a local nurse contract.

What’s the Difference Between a Travel Contract vs Local Contract?

Before jumping into the differences, it’s important to recognize that travel nursing and local nursing contracts are quite similar. Both types of contracts include:

  • Defined short-term durations
  • Per diem payment
  • Competitive compensation 
  • Employee benefits
  • Flexible scheduling

However, these two types of contracts have some key differences. Even if you’re a wanderer at heart, a faraway travel nursing job may not work for your family or lifestyle. On the flip side, a local contract may not provide the guaranteed hours you’re seeking. 

To choose between the two, it’s important to know the difference between each contract’s “package”—i.e., their guaranteed benefits and requirements. Get to know the major package differences for both travel and local nursing contracts:

  • Living location – First, the main difference between a travel contract and local contract comes down to location. A local contract will require you to live within a facility’s mileage rule limit, while a travel contract will require you to live outside this limit (or need nearby housing to work at the facility). 
  • Taxable income – To make travel jobs less stressful and financially draining, travel contracts pay tax-free stipends to employees. These stipends go directly towards housing, meals, and other living expenses that come from relocating. On the flipside, local contacts provide no such tax-free income.
  • Extra time payment – All nursing jobs are eligible for overtime pay. However, not all nursing jobs are eligible for extra time pay. Extra time is when a contracted nurse receives a higher rate for hours worked above their contract requirements, but less than overtime hours. Most travel contracts offer extra time pay, but not many local contracts do.
  • Guaranteed hours – Since travel nursing jobs require you to relocate away from other opportunities, most provide guaranteed hours. This means that you’ll never be denied a shift that’s on your schedule, ensuring your per diem payment. However, a local contract may not offer guaranteed hours. 

Ready to jumpstart your career? Learn more!Pros of Being a Travel Nurse

Travel nursing is a uniquely fulfilling and exciting road to a healthcare career. For nurses untethered to one location, these contracted roles may be the perfect opportunity to expand your horizons and gain some valuable experience in the field.

Feeling the pull of the open road? An overview of travel nursing benefits include:

  • New locations – The most obvious perk of a traveling nurse job is, well, the travel. Within one year, you can experience a rich palette of local cultures across the country, all while furthering your nursing career. 
  • Larger network – Like with most industries, a robust network can accelerate and improve your nursing career. Travel nurse jobs give you a chance to connect with more healthcare workers around the country, building a stronger professional network.
  • Top-tier compensation – Out of all nursing positions, travel contracts have some of the most competitive pay. Nurses can make upwards to double the national average of annual income.
  • Paid living expenses – Healthcare facilities know that travel nursing can be a stressful and often fast-paced job. That’s why nearly all offer tax-free stipends to cover your living expenses, from food to housing. 

Pros of Being a Local Nurse

Love the idea of travel nursing…but hate the idea of traveling far, far away from home? For nurses who want a travel job’s flexibility without leaving home, a local nurse contract may be your dream come true.

As a local nurse, you receive some of the incredible benefits of travel nursing without sacrificing your home life. Some of the top perks of a local nurse contract include:

  • Competitive pay – Local nursing contracts offer very competitive pay without forcing you to relocate. The average per diem nurse can make above the average registered nurse salary by 33%.,
  • No additional licenses – To work as a travel nurse, you must hold a nursing license for every state where you work a contracted job. Overtime, this can get quite expensive and time-consuming. By working locally, you can eliminate the need for any extra nursing licenses.
  • Secure home location – Most nurses will say that the greatest benefit of a local contract is having a stable living situation. If you have a family, children, or a secondary job, relocating may be out of the question. A local contract allows you to keep your home life without losing the benefits of a per diem job.
  • No relocation costs – When you’re not moving homes, you don’t have to pay for the cost of moving! Local jobs require zero out-of-pocket travel expenses.
  • Local networking – If you believe that your current home is your foreseeable home for the future, then it’s important to build a local network. Local contracts give you the opportunity to work around your area and get to know your local healthcare economy, workers, and job options.

Find Your Dream Nursing Job with MAS Medical Staffing

Whether you’re looking for a traveling or local nursing job, there’s a contract out there to fit your unique needs—and we can help you find it.

At MAS Medical, our team works with you to choose the optimal location, pay, and benefits to match your career goals. 

Seeking a flexible schedule amongst a mountain-laden atmosphere or a local contract close to home with robust health insurance? We can help you pick the traveling nursing jobs that have the compensation package you need, including benefits like 401(k) matching, housing stipends, and same-day pay

At MAS Medical, your nursing career is in your hands. Contact our team today, and we’ll help you take control of your path in healthcare.

 

Sources:

IRS. Publication 463 (2021), Travel, Gift, and Car Expenses. https://www.irs.gov/publications/p463 

Fortune. Travel nurse salaries float around $200K as staffing crisis continues. https://fortune.com/education/articles/travel-nurse-salaries-float-around-200k-as-staffing-crisis-continues.

Glassdoor. Registered Nurse Salary. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/registered-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm 

Glassdoor. Per Diem RN Salary. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/new-york-city-per-diem-rn-salary-SRCH_IL.0,13_IM615_KO14,25.htm 

Author

Explore Your Career Options

Travel

Travel

Choose Your Adventure
Nursing | Allied
Per Diem

Per Diem

Design Your Schedule
Flexibility | Consistency |
Variety
Perm

Perm

Advance Your Career
Opportunity | Support |
Success