A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Travel Nurse Contract Lengths

The 13-week travel nursing contract is the industry standard, but assignments can vary in length. The length of a project is often driven by the healthcare facility with whom you sign a contract. A transparent travel nurse agency will be able to show you how much of the travel nurse pay package is allocated towards your wages, benefits, liability insurance reimbursements, and company overhead.


Travel nurses often love a particular facility, ward or team and want to extend their contract. However, there are a couple of rules travel nurses must follow when developing their contracts. The first thing to remember is that travel nurses have a one-year limit on their assignments. This doesn’t mean they must work on each project for 12 months consecutively, but it does mean that if you stay at a term longer than a year, the IRS will view your job as permanent, and you won’t receive tax-free housing and travel reimbursements anymore. For this reason, most travel nurse contracts are 13 weeks long. This allows a travel nurse to acclimate to their new environment, provide coverage during FMLA leaves and take advantage of the opportunities that come with working in a different city. Typically, your new travel nursing assignment will have an orientation period. Depending on the hospital’s needs, this can be as short as a single shift or may last a few weeks. During your orientation period, you can negotiate for more shifts or a higher pay rate depending on the facility’s needs and the demand in your area. This is a good time to ask your recruiter if your agency offers contract extensions and the current rates.

Contract Length

The standard travel nurse contract length is 13 weeks. However, several factors can impact this, including staffing needs, housing availability and the travel nurse’s desire for a specific location or specialty. Generally, hospitals need travelers to fill in during the initial onboarding and orientation period. These periods can range from four to 12 weeks, allowing new permanent staff to get acquainted with their environments. Additionally, many facilities require additional coverage when full-time employees take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time.

Travel nurses enjoy their assignments so much that they want to extend their contracts. This is a win-win for both the travel nurse and the facility. Extending a travel nurse contract means the hospital cannot search for and recruit a new nurse. It also saves the travel nursing agency time and money, as the nurse staffing company does not have to process a new application and credentialing for a new candidate. As a general rule, though, travel nurses must move on to their next assignment once they’ve exceeded a one-year limit in the same state or area unless the facility agrees to a different arrangement. This restriction is implemented to keep travel nurses moving around the country, which helps maintain tax-free reimbursements for their expenses. It’s a good idea for travel nurses to discuss any potential extension with their travel nurse agencies during interviewing and throughout the assignment to avoid surprises down the road.

Contract Extensions

There are several reasons why a travel nurse may choose to extend their current contract assignment. First and foremost, it can be much easier to remain where you are than to relocate to a new state and start re-licensing and getting credentialed all over again. Plus, it can also provide stability and familiarity. Another benefit to extending your contract is that it allows you to negotiate with the hospital or healthcare facility and advocate for compensation that reflects your skillset and dedication. You can use the extra time to push for higher shift lengths or more days off in your schedule if desired. Finally, extending your travel nurse contract can also help you reach the one-year limit that prevents you from staying at the same location more than once yearly for tax purposes. This restriction is in place to ensure that you are receiving benefits like housing and meals only for a while.

However, let’s say you’re enjoying your current assignment so much that you want to stay there even longer. Then, it’s time to talk to your recruiter and see the available options. They can facilitate contract extension discussions with your current assignment and the facility and help you complete the details. And don’t forget to have a backup plan, too!


Some requirements travel nurses must meet to be considered eligible for an assignment. This can include the floating policy if there is a guaranteed number of hours to be worked each week, if and how overtime might be calculated, and whether or not the facility will pay for licensure. A common travel nurse preference is for a 13-week contract, but there are plenty of opportunities for shorter assignments. Most travel nursing agencies will handle any contract length requested by the hospitals. Travel nurses must understand the ramifications of breaking their contracts and not meeting requirements. Canceling an assignment is a serious issue and can impact future employment opportunities at the facility, as well as with other travel nurse companies. A few instances exist when a facility can cancel a contract for a “good cause.” This includes when the traveler has performance issues that persist over time, makes repeated errors in patient medication administration or care, or behaves unprofessionally and interferes with the facility’s operation. Another important consideration is state licensure requirements, which vary widely by location and require some advance notice. Some states are considered “walk-through” and allow you to obtain a temporary license within days, while others may require in-person attendance.

Leave a Comment