It’s a common misconception that traveling nurse practitioners and others in locum tenens positions make less money than their counterparts who choose permanent placements. But are traveling nurse practitioners (NPs) actually worse off financially than those who work in more traditional positions?
While it’s true that traveling NPs don’t have the same benefits as those working in regular positions, they’re doing just fine financially. According to Sophia Khawly and Katherine Padilla, two NPs working locum tenens, income is not a big concern. Both NPs report that they’re doing just as well — if not better — than they would be if they had full-time positions.
Traveling NPs choose the path for more than the money. However, if you’re considering locum tenens, you want to be sure you can pay the bills without making a substantial sacrifice. Thankfully, you’re not likely to make any less money as a traveling NP. Here’s why:
Some Locum Tenens Positions Pay More
Depending on where you work, locum tenens positions may pay more than traditional, full-time roles. “Most of the pay rates are comparable to market value or pay a lot more,” Padilla said.
Many traveling NPs go to rural locations where NPs and other medical professionals are in high demand. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical organizations in these areas are often willing to pay a premium for the best talent.
Additionally, many positions cover lodging as well as pay. “I feel like I’m going on vacation at every assignment because my lodging is paid for and the environment is new,” said Padilla.
Even in urban areas that are more immediately attractive, the pay rate for locum tenens is comparable to what you would receive in a full-time role.
You’ll Qualify for Substantial Tax Deductions
When you work for an organization, you fill out a W-2 form, which means payroll taxes are automatically deducted from your paycheck. Organizations are also legally required to provide certain benefits to W-2 employees.
However, if you work in locum tenens as a sole proprietor, you can take substantial tax deductions that can increase your annual income.
“I work as a sole proprietor (through 1099) because I am able to deduct way more of my taxes than I would normally be eligible for if I was a full-time employee (W2),” said Khawly. “For example, as a traveler, I can deduct $250/week for meals. I also choose to pay for my own health insurance, which I am able to deduct on my taxes.”
You Can Use Flexibility to Your Advantage
One of the best parts of being a traveling NP is the flexibility. You can take substantial time off to travel, visit family, or simply relax. But you can also use this flexibility to optimize your income.
For example, you can take a locum tenens position with great pay in a location you’re not particularly excited about, but only agree to the position for a limited amount of time. You can work for this time to make substantial income, then take time off or go to a more attractive location afterward.
If you’re entrepreneurial, you can also use this flexibility to start a side project or other business.