Travel Nursing License and Certification Reimbursements
License and certification reimbursements are one of the many perceived perks of travel nursing. In fact, some agencies offer them and others don’t. The agencies that do offer them have many different methods of handling them. Most importantly, in the end, like every other item in the travel nursing pay package, travel nurses should view these reimbursements as just another component of the pay package pie. In other words, the simple fact that a reimbursement is offered doesn’t necessarily make one pay package better than another that’s not offering a reimbursement.
Travel nursing license and certification reimbursements: The agency’s perspective
Let’s look at this first from the agency’s perspective. Agencies that offer license and certification reimbursements use the offerings as a selling point. It gives the impression that something more is being offered. However, in the end, it’s typically treated just like any other cost is treated. It’s calculated in to the total pay package where the increased cost is offset by equal reductions in another compensation item.
Note that I used the word “typically.” Sometimes, these reimbursements really can add value to the total pay package. Agencies may set aside funds for license and certification reimbursements such that if travelers don’t take advantage of the offer, then they’re leaving money on the table. In addition, agencies may find themselves forced to provide a reimbursement after the compensation package has been negotiated. This is one of the main reasons that some agencies choose not to offer them.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate the kind of bind that these offerings can get the agency in to. Suppose an agency advertises that they provide “free” license and certification reimbursements for assignments. A new nurse new to the game sees the advertisement, contacts the agency, and ends up signing on for an assignment with them. During the process, the issue of license reimbursement is never discussed between the travel nurse and travel nurse recruiter because the nurse assumes that the advertisement means what it says.
Then, three weeks in to the assignment the nurse calls the agency and asks when the license reimbursement will be paid. The recruiter will undoubtedly respond that the license reimbursement will not be paid because it hadn’t been discussed during the contract negotiation process. Essentially, the agency didn’t factor the cost into the initial pay package, so adding it now would reduce the profit margin that the agency was counting on.
Now, no matter whose side of this argument you come down on, it’s not good business to have disappointed customers. So the agency has a choice between a disappointed customer and paying the reimbursement. Paying out an unanticipated license or certification reimbursement every once in a while isn’t going to kill the agency, but doing so on a regular basis could have a significant impact on the bottom line. Again, avoiding this scenario is one of the reasons that some agencies don’t offer license and certification reimbursements.
Another reason that agencies give for not offering license and certification reimbursements is that the license or certification belongs to the nurse not the agency. This logic has merit in certain circumstances. For example, if the agency pays for a state nursing license up front in order to land an assignment at a particular hospital, there’s a risk that the assignment falls through for one reason or another and the nurse may then use the license to land an assignment through another agency.
I realize that this sounds unlikely, but trust me, it happens. In addition, even if the nurse takes the assignment, the assignment only lasts for 13 weeks, but the license or certification is typically good for 2 or more years. The nurse and/or future employers of the nurse will undoubtedly benefit from the cost incurred by the agency that provided the reimbursement. All this said, I’m not a big fan of this reasoning. Again, agencies are going to factor this cost into the overall compensation package so they’ll be able to account for it as long as they don’t pay for it up font.
Travel nursing license and certification reimbursements: Considerations for travel nurses
Now that you have an idea about how reimbursements are viewed by the agency, we can discuss what this all means for you. I submit to you that license reimbursement should not be a big issue in determining which agencies you work with. Ultimately, it’s just another component of the pay package and you must consider the entire package when determining whether or not you’re getting a good deal. That said, I do believe that reimbursements present an opportunity in the negotiating process.
Let’s say that you’re speaking with two agencies about two different assignments. You get each of them to email you a compensation package offer for their respective assignments. You could then contact each of them and express that you’re interested (assuming you are interested) but that you would really like to get a license reimbursement in addition to what they’ve offered. Of course, this only works if you have very recently incurred such an expense or expect to incur the expense during the course of the assignment. The cost of the license or certification reimbursement is typically within a range that is small enough to have a somewhat minimal impact on the agency’s profit margin, but at the same time be a big help to the traveler. This approach may be a little shady, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
There’s another important aspect for travelers to consider regarding license and certification reimbursement. It’s highly recommended to stay organized when it comes to your licenses and certifications if you want to maximize your chances of getting reimbursed. You have to know in advance if you have a license or certification that’s going to expire during your next contract in order to benefit in any way from a potential reimbursement. You’ll be hard pressed to find a agency that will reimburse after the pay package has been negotiated. In addition, you’re going to want to obtain and maintain receipts for all of your licenses and certifications. Agencies are most likely going to require a copy of a receipt in order to provide any reimbursements.