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Female local travel nurse in blue medical scrubs wearing a mask on the phone while walking to work.

Can You Make Good Money as a Local Travel Nurse?

Author:
May Baker
Published:
January 17, 2023

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the huge influx of travel nurses. You likely know and work with travel nurses, or maybe you’re a travel nurse yourself. Usually, when you think of travel nursing, you envision jetting off across the country. Exploring states a thousand miles away living in someone else’s house for a few months. Did you know it's possible to stay within your own state - your own city even - and still be a travel nurse? Welcome to the world of local travel nursing!

What is local travel nursing?

Think of local travel nursing as a contracted position. In many ways, it is similar to regular travel nursing. You will still use a staffing agency to find and apply for local jobs. Since you are filling a critical need, your pay will be higher than permanent staff. The difference is, at the end of the day, you are usually close enough where you can travel back home, which makes for awesome work-life balance.

How long can you do local travel nursing?

There are some rules with local travel nurse contracts. While many contract jobs are an average of 13 weeks, according to the IRS, you can be considered a travel nurse (local or not) at the same hospital for up to a year. After a year, you are considered to be in a permanent position.

Differences between local and non-local travel nursing

Graphic with pros and cons of travel nursing locally in a chart.

Pros of travel nursing locally

1. Staying close to home

Many nurses dream to try travel nursing but for personal reasons don’t believe they can. Maybe you have young children at home, or animals to care for. Maybe you fear being homesick. Local travel nursing offers the traveling experience within familiar surroundings.  

2. Warming up to the travel environment

Travel nursing requires confidence and experience. Nurses contracted to fill roles often only receive a few days of orientation, if that. You must be able to hit the ground running. This can seem extra daunting when you’re already navigating a state you’ve never been to. Testing out a local job allows you to dip your toes in the travel nursing world before you pack your bags and move across the country.  

3.  Establish yourself with a travel agency

Many travel nurse agencies offer travel nurse positions along with local travel nurse contracts. Working with an agency on a local assignment will establish you with an agency and help you build a relationship with a recruiter until you are ready to venture to another city or state.  

4. You can still work PRN at your current job

Another benefit to local travel nursing is keeping a PRN position until (or if) you decide to commit to a travel nurse assignment further away. Quitting a stable permanent position, especially if you enjoy it, is a large reason many nurses don’t try travel nursing. Local contracts give you the best of both worlds - keeping your job while trying out another.

5.  Pay is usually higher

Since contract workers are needed immediately to fill critical positions, hospitals are willing to pay more. As a result, you will be making more money than in a permanent position.  

Cons of travel nursing locally

1. Tax stipends work differently

When working as a travel nurse, part of your pay comes from tax-free stipends. Travel nurses receive this stipend for housing and other incidentals since it is assumed they are duplicating expenses; they are maintaining a tax-home while also living somewhere else. As a local travel nurse, it's unlikely you will receive this stipend since you are not considered to be duplicating expenses, though this will depend on the specific contract and staffing agency. Always confer with a tax specialist if you have questions about qualifying for a stipend.

2. Not all travel agencies allow local travel

You may have heard about a ‘50-mile’ rule with travel nursing. Some travel agencies may require you to work a certain distance away from your tax home in order to qualify for contracted positions. This is not a law and depends on the staffing agency.  

3. You may miss out on the excitement of traveling

There’s something exciting about getting out of your comfort zone. Travel nursing is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see monuments, parks, cities, and regions while immersing yourself in different cultures and meeting new people.  

4. Orientation is short

As mentioned earlier, travel and contract nurses may only receive 1-3 days of orientation. This may be a difficult adjustment if you struggle with new documentation systems or learning new processes.  

5.  Staff nurses may be hard on you

Since travel nurses make more money than staff nurses, there have been reports of workplace bullying toward travel staff. Travel nurses are often given tougher patient assignments to “earn” their money. This is not always the case. Many hospitals welcome travel nurses because they recognize you as a helping hand and not the enemy.  

How to become a local travel nurse

Becoming a local travel nurse will require the same amount of education and experience as any travel nurse. Once you obtain your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) you will still need at least 1 year of nursing experience in your specialty before you are considered safe and prepared to travel.

How much does a local travel nurse make?

While the pay for travel nurses fluctuates depending on several factors such as specialty, location, current demand, etc., the following chart offers a price comparison of local travel pay compared to staff pay.  

Local travel nurse salary vs. staff nurse by state

Hawaii

Local Travel Salary: $46.05/hr

Staff Salary: $42.28/hr

Florida

Local Travel Salary: $45.10/hr

Staff Salary: $41.41/hr

Michigan

Local Travel Salary: $46.63/hr

Staff Salary: $41.90/hr

Ohio

Local Travel Salary: $46.86/hr

Staff Salary: $41.47/hr

Texas

Local Travel Salary: $55.64/hr

Staff Salary: $40.96/hr

*Salary information accurate as of 9/21/2022.

Is local travel nursing worth it?

100%! Trying a local travel assignment is a great way to start your travel nurse career. You might find out you love travel nursing while making a few extra bucks along the way. Or, you recognize it isn’t for you without shaking up your life too much. Either way, what have you got to lose?

Ready to jump into local travel nursing? Sign up on AdvantisConnect so we can connect you with the perfect travel nursing contract.

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