One of the biggest reasons people become travel nurses is because they love the sense of adventure that comes from moving to different locations and experiencing different parts of the country. But just how often do travel nurses change locations? The short answer is: it’s up to you! That’s part of what makes travel nursing so great, the freedom to choose when and where you work. But making the decision to pack up and move isn’t always easy, and there are a lot of factors to consider. Here are some things to think about as you develop your plans for life as a travel nurse.
How long do travel nursing assignments typically last?
The average travel nursing assignment is 13 weeks long. That means a travel nurse working regularly could expect to move four times in a year (52 weeks in a year/13 = 4).
But of course, 13 weeks is just the average. Some travel nursing assignments can be up to 26 weeks, and others can be as short as four weeks. Sometimes you’ll be offered the chance to extend your assignment depending on the hospital’s staffing needs.
Even if you end up with four 13-week assignments, don’t expect everything to fit perfectly in a calendar year. You’ll likely still need time to actually move to your new city and get settled before starting work. Contracts can also get cut short or canceled last minute, depending again on the hospital’s needs and your contract stipulations.
All of these variables mean it’s difficult to say exactly how often travel nurses change locations. But the important thing is that you’re in control. To make decisions about your travel nursing plans, you should consider the kind of lifestyle you want and what makes the most sense from a tax perspective.
Are you getting into travel nursing to make as much money as possible? Or do you want to take a few weeks off in between each assignment to travel the world? If you fell in love with a city, would you stay for a while? Or do you want to continually be on the move?
If your bank account is your primary motivator, you should work with your recruiter to line up assignments so you can begin one as soon as another ends. If you plan to take breaks in between moves, that’s also a great option. The important thing is that you formulate a plan and communicate that to your recruiter so they can help you understand when you should start applying for your next position. A flexible work life is one of the most attractive features of travel nursing. But having a plan for your entire year will be important come tax time.
Although it’s ultimately up to you to decide how frequently you want to move, there are a number of serious tax considerations to keep in mind. Failure to plan well for tax season could mean you end up owing a lot more in taxes than you anticipated.
The most important thing to keep in mind is how much time you’ll be spending in your “tax home.” According to the IRS, your tax home is simply the location of your regular place of business. This can obviously be a bit confusing for travel nurses who move regularly.
According to the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO), you are said to maintain a tax home if you pass a three-part test:
- You perform a portion of your business in the vicinity of your home and use that home for lodging while doing business in the area.
- You incur living expenses (mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.) at your home that are duplicated while you are on assignment Away From Home.
- You must meet at least one of the following three criteria to meet this third factor:
- You have not abandoned the area in which your historical place of lodging is located;
- A member or members of your family (spouse, children, domestic partners) are living at the location; or,
- You use the home frequently for your own lodging.
The reason your tax home is so important is because of the untaxed benefits many travel nurses receive. These can be things like your per diem, housing stipend and travel reimbursements.
If you maintain a tax home, the IRS allows you to collect these benefits tax-free because they are essentially reimbursements for the duplicate expenses you incur by paying rent in two places. But if you don’t have a tax home, you could have to pay taxes on everything, and that bill could be significant. You’ll also have to account for the different state tax laws in each location that you work.
Taxes are always confusing, but your travel nursing recruiter should be able to answer some of your questions. However, it’s always best to consult with a tax professional to get expert advice on your unique situation.
By lining up your finances with the lifestyle you envision for yourself, you can come up with a travel nursing plan that keeps you happy and financially sound no matter how often you change locations.