These days, travel nursing pay packages are everywhere. However, you need to be careful about where you find them. You see, there are a couple of job boards that have job postings with pay packages. They even compare pay packages between companies on the same job listing. Discover why travel nurses are calling us their “secret weapon”. Sounds amazing, right?! Unfortunately, the pay packages on these sites can be highly inaccurate. Here’s why. First, very few agencies have the technology to automatically calculate accurate pay packages for every job. The software and data management are simply too complex for most agencies to tackle. Instead, these job boards import very basic job data from the agencies en-masse. The data includes the bill rate and work-hours per week for each job. Then, agencies select a default percentage to take off the bill rate in all cases. The job board removes that percentage from the bill rate for every single job and multiplies the remainder by the number of work-hours per week for each job. Anybody who knows anything about travel nursing pay will tell you that this is a gross oversimplification that will result in inaccurate pay packages on both sides of the equation. Travel nurses are not happy about it. They routinely express their disgust on social media. Here are some examples. And that’s not even the worst of it. You can bet your bottom dollar that an agency will not honor a pay package that is too high. At the same time, the agency will most likely not increase a pay package if it’s too low given that you’ve already expressed your interest. So, these sites dupe travel nurses either way. Moreover, erroneous pay information will actually harm your ability to negotiate.
All of that said. research finds that it’s highly beneficial for you to know about salary ranges when you are negotiating. This is especially true for women. As you may have heard, studies indicate that male RNs make more than $5,000 more per year than their female counterparts. Meanwhile, negotiating experts agree that women are more reticent to negotiate salary. Now, there is broad debate as to why that is. However, research indicates that the negotiation gap decreases significantly when women know salary ranges in advance.
Research indicates that “status concerns” have a negative impact on negotiations. “Status concern” is the PC way of saying jealousy. In fact, a majority of people are less likely to accept a job offer if they know that a peer got a better offer. This is even true if the offer is substantially better than their current situation. What does this mean for travel nurses? Travelers talk to one another about their pay packages. That’s a good thing! As we’ll discuss below, research supports doing so. However, travelers must be careful not to let these discussions lead to jealousy because jealousy can cloud your judgement during negotiations. You might approach negotiations with unrealistic expectations and alienate your negotiating partners. You might pass on an offer over $1 or $2 per hour. Then, you miss a week or two of work waiting for the next assignment, which can be much more costly. Moreover, we routinely see travel nurses receive bad information about pay on social media. At the same time, it’s difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons of travel nursing pay packages. As a result, you may not receive accurate information.
Negotiating experts categorize negotiating strategies in different ways. For example, experts have categorized strategies as follows:
You should also work with as many travel nursing companies as you can. Doing so will increase your access to the job market as different agencies have access to different jobs. This means you can gather more alternatives. Working with multiple agencies creates a competitive market for your services in two ways. First, companies are more likely to make their best offer if they know there is competition for your business. Second, it’s possible for you to receive multiple pay quotes for the same job. In some cases, you may even have agencies bid against one another. This is why recruiters will sometimes ask you to forward the offers you’ve received from other companies. Now, we understand that managing multiple agencies can seem daunting. However, we have resources to help. First, you can centrally manage all your documentation and communication with recruiters for free right here on BluePipes. Second, you can discover how to manage all the nuances of working with multiple travel nursing companies in this article.
In addition to information, you also need alternatives. In fact, alternatives are one of the cornerstones of the negotiating approach we recommend for travel nurses. Tired of filling out skills checklists? Own your own on BluePipes. That approach is called “principled negotiation”. Roger Fisher and William Ury defined this approach in their landmark book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Principled Negotiation is based on five propositions. We cover them extensively in our free negotiating eBook, so we won’t cover them in detail here. However, it’s important for us to discuss one of the propositions here. BATNA is the acronym for “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”. BATNA is important for travel nurses in many ways. We’ll look at two of them here. First, you need to know all the jobs that meet your search criteria and you need to know what they pay. This will help you evaluate the state of the job market. For example, if you pass on an offer now, then how long might it take you to secure another offer and at what pay rate? If you know this, then you’ll know how much money it might cost you if you pass on a job offer. Second, travel nurses should seek to establish viable alternatives. Viable alternatives include things like multiple job offers and side-hustles. Having viable alternatives dramatically increases your negotiating power. It also helps you avoid accepting jobs that pay less than your bottom line. Working PRN is the perfect example of a viable alternative for travel nurses. Therefore, you should try to establish stable PRN options wherever you are.
But first, you need a strategy for when travel nursing recruiters ask you how much money you want to make. This question is inevitable. So, what should you do? Research indicates that the best approach is to crack a joke about an implausible salary expectation. For example, you might say, “Well, I’d like to make $350k, but really I just want what’s fair.” This approach causes your negotiating partner to “anchor” on the high end of the salary range. One study indicated that this approach resulted in offers that were 9% higher than if the candidate simply provided their previous salary as the answer. Now, the recruiter will probably still ask you for a real number. In that case, you should let them know that you want to know the pay for all the options that meet your search criteria. You can explain that there is no way for you to make an informed decision without having all the information.
Now, it’s important to note that you should know what your bottom-line is. However, you should never reveal it to your negotiating partner. Every recruiter will ask you for your bottom line. Moreover, tons of travel nurses will encourage you to reveal your bottom line to your recruiters. They all argue that doing so will save you time. Otherwise, the recruiter will send you offers that you’re not interested in (OH….heaven forbid!!). However, the Harvard Program on Negotiation says that revealing your bottom line is a “glaring negotiation mistake”. Moreover, if you’re an expert on travel nursing pay packages, then it will take you seconds to review a pay package. Perhaps most importantly, you must know all the information to be an effective negotiator. In this regard, your goal is to determine the range of pay in your desired destinations. This will help you determine what is and is not a good offer.
We hear it all the time in travel nursing. “Stick to your bottom line.” Unfortunately, bottom-line-negotiating is wildly unsuccessful. Essentially, bottom-line-negotiating can cost you thousands of dollars every year. That’s partly because you end up missing work as you pass on job offers when there are no other alternatives. It’s also because it causes you to miss all types of negotiating opportunities. We wrote extensively about this in another article. We encourage you to review it here. The bottom line on bottom-lines is that you should not allow them to control your negotiating strategy.
Next, you should request a sample travel nursing contract in advance. As I mentioned above, travel nursing contracts include many different clauses. Moreover, different agencies use different contracts and clauses. It’s extremely rare for a recruiter to cover every clause with you during the course of your normal conversations with them. Therefore, you can get totally thrown off guard when you receive a contract from a travel nursing agency that you’ve never worked with. Your travel nursing recruiter may tell you that travel nursing contracts vary from hospital to hospital. There is some truth to that. However, you can still ask for a general example so that you can review and ask questions before you receive an offer.