What is an Independent Nurse Contractor?

An independent nurse contractor is a self-employed nurse who works with hospitals and healthcare facilities.

These specialists operate on a contractual basis rather than begin permanently employed by a hospital or institution.

Independent nurse contracts provide medical assistance to healthcare facilities with nursing or department shortages.

In short, they supply supplemental support to fill vacant nursing positions temporarily.

Independent nurse contractors may be confused with travel nurses due to their many similarities.

For instance, travel nurses also work on temporary assignments to support inadequately staffed hospitals.

Nevertheless, there are fundamental differences between independent nurse contractors and travel nurses.

What Do Independent Nurse Contractors Do?

In terms of responsibilities, independent nurse contractors perform the same duties as regularly employed nurses.

They provide patients with medical advice, monitor vital signs, keep medical records, and administer medications.

They also assist with rehabilitation, work with doctors and other specialists, and perform other work-related duties.

However, independent nurse contractors can enjoy the freedom to have more flexibility with their schedules and time.

These professionals can negotiate work based on their terms, especially if they’re highly skilled and trained.

Nevertheless, nurse contractors are responsible for finding work, negotiating their salary, and travel accommodations.

Without negotiating, marketing, and career experience, independent nurse contractors may have difficulty getting contracts.

Occupational Responsibilities:

  • Assess the patient’s medical condition (observe and interpret symptoms)
  • Administer medications and treatments
  • Educate patients about their injuries, illness, and ailments
  • Collaborate with nurses and doctors/physicians to develop patient care plans
  • Update medical records and documentation
  • Supervise LPNs, CNAs, and nursing assistants
  • Assist patients in the ICU, ED, critical care, trauma unit, and other settings
  • Assist with rehabilitation programs
  • Feed, bathe, and clean patients unable to care for themselves
  • Remove Stitches

Where do Independent Nurse Contractors Work?

Independent nurse contracts work in a broad variety of healthcare settings.

It includes hospitals, outpatient care facilities, nursing homes, community health centers, and private practices.

Some independent nurse contractors also work for medical sales, insurance companies, and marketing agencies.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient care facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Community health centers
  • Private practices
  • Medical sales
  • Marketing agencies
  • Insurance companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies

An independent nurse contractor’s duties vary depending on their education, specialization, and employer’s needs.

As a result, it’s beneficial to develop expertise to make themselves more marketable to different healthcare establishments.

How to Become an Independent Nurse Contractor

Becoming an independent nurse contractor requires having the proper training, skills, background, and work ethic.

As a result, this section focuses on the knowledge and skills registered nurses must acquire to operate in this profession.

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming an independent nurse contractor is to join a nursing program.

The nursing programs provide the necessary training and education to operate competently as a registered nurse.

To join a nursing program students must have their GED or diploma.

It enables them to enter college and take the necessary prerequires courses to enter the nursing program.

Students must also maintain a good GPA while completing the prerequisite courses to compete successfully with other aspiring nursing students.

The prerequisite course takes roughly 1 – 2 years to complete depending on the student’s previous education.

After completing the necessary prerequisites students may apply for the nursing program.

2. Obtain an ADN or BSN Degree

Most nursing programs offer students two educational paths.

It includes the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree.

The associate’s degree takes around 18 – 24 months to complete and provides a basic understanding of nursing.

As a result, successful nursing students can quickly enter the nursing field, gain experience, and earn money.

The ADN degree does have limitations regarding career advancement, job opportunities, and pay.

Those with this degree may join entry-level positions and see some career advancement options.

Nevertheless, many healthcare institutions prefer students with a BSN due to the additional education and training.

The BSN degree takes roughly 36 – 48  months to complete and provides a more compressive understanding of nursing.

Thus, nurses with a BSN can pursue numerous career opportunities, earn higher incomes, and land jobs more effectively.

Some registered nursing certifications also require a BSN and adequate work experience.

Therefore, obtaining this degree is highly beneficial for independent nurse contracts.

3. Pass the NLCEX-RN exam

After completing nursing school and obtaining a degree, students must pass the state-required NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam tests a student’s knowledge and competencies to ensure they have adequate training for the nursing field.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) produces the NCLEX exam.

Upon successful completion of the exam, students may obtain their licensure and begin working as registered nurses.

4. Acquire Work Experience

As with all healthcare professions, developing career experience is extremely important.

Independent nurse contractors must understand the ins and outs of nursing before working independently.

As a result, it’s beneficial to work at hospitals or healthcare facilities for several years to gain sufficient experience.

It enables nurses to better understand bedside care, hospital policies, and other vital aspects of nursing and patient care.

Registered nurses may also want to consider travel nursing and joining an entrepreneurship community for nurses.

Becoming a travel nurse provides lots of experience with working with various hospitals.

Travel nurses learn about salary and benefits negations, travel accommodations, and contract/assignment expectations.

Joining an entrepreneurship community for nurses is beneficial for connecting with successful healthcare professionals.

It enables aspiring independent nurse contractors to establish connections and learn vital business skills. 

After obtaining adequate experience and developing a network of employers and hospitals, registered nurses may start the process of becoming independent nurse contracts.

Regardless, there is no official length of time needed to become an independent nurse contractor.

Operating in this profession primarily requires having the proper skillset, education, background, and mindset.

5. Develop Business / Entrepreneurship Skills

Developing business and entrepreneurial skills is essential to become a successful independent nurse contractor.

Independent nurse contractors must understand how to set up a corporation to protect themselves legally.

They must also learn how to perform marketing and sales, build relationships, manage finances and negotiate contracts.

Developing these skills takes a lot of time, research, and practice.

Nevertheless, it’s highly beneficial for those who want to obtain the best contacts and maintain steady employment.

Necessary Skills:

  • Accounting
  • Business set up
  • Sales and marketing
  • Relationship building
  • Contract negotiation
  • Time management
  • Various professional nursing skills

Independent Nurse Contractors vs. Travel Nurses

There are numerous differences between independent nurse contractors and travel nurses.

For instance, independent nurse contractors work for themselves and must do their research and marketing to land jobs.

Travel nurses typically work with travel agencies who find them employment.

Travel agencies will also assist with hospital contracts, travel setup (i.e. room and board), and other expenses.

Secondly, independent nurse contractors are self-employed.

They don’t have the same agreements or employment with travel agencies or other staffing services.

As a result, they’re often responsible for negotiating their salaries, travel expenses, housing, and benefits.

They’ll also need to consider and negotiate other costs associated with reallocation and travel.

Less experienced independent nurse contractors may have difficulty negotiating for themselves or locating potential work.

Therefore, it’s beneficial for aspiring independent nurse contractors to first obtain experience as travel nurses.

It provides a foundation for how to acquire contracts, get housing and vehicles and negotiate expenses and benefits.

On a more positive note, experienced independent nurse contractors may find it easier to locate specific work.

They may find extra job opportunities since they don’t rely on particular agencies’ ability to find a specific assignment.

They can also earn more money through direct negations and receive various perks.

No one agency has all potential nursing job listings.

As a result, some travel nurses may only see the listings the agency makes available to them.

They may also be limited to the housing accommodations and benefits negotiated between the agency and the employer.

Accordingly, it’s highly beneficial for travel nurses to pick their travel agencies carefully.

Experienced agencies help nurses find the best jobs, receive the most money, and negotiate the most satisfying benefits.

On the other hand, experienced independent nurses can negotiate more satisfactory terms based on their training, education, experience, and negotiation skills.

These terms and perks can range from increased pay to better housing or medical coverage.

Which Career is Best for Nurses?

Whether to work for an agency as a travel nurse or operate unassisted as an independent contractor depends on the nurse’s experience, training, negotiating skills, and comfort level.

As previously mentioned, independent nurse contractors may benefit from negotiating their salary, and benefits.

They may also negotiate better travel accommodations to suit their relocation preferences.

It provides independent nurse contractors with more flexibility and negotiation power than inexperienced travel nurses.

On the other hand, independent nurse contractors must have a strong occupational background and good negotiation skills.

It requires months or years of training and relationship-building to become a successful independent nurse contractor.

Travel nurses do not need to understand all the ins and outs of finding a job, negotiating a contract, or managing finances.

It’s easier to obtain travel accommodations, benefits and salaries because a good travel agency manages these tasks.

Travel agencies may also have numerous employment opportunities if they have a large career network.

These agencies work closely with certain hospitals and healthcare facilities to quickly accommodate their staffing needs.

As a result, travel nurses can have numerous job offers and contracts sent to them more passively.

Independent nurse contractors need to establish their network/connection and understand marketing and negation.

Developing these skills takes time and can make or break the success of inexperienced independent nurse contractors.

Here are some things independent contractors or agencies negotiate with a healthcare facility during the hiring process.

  • Negotiated salary
  • Medical benefits
  • Coverage for housing
  • Transportations reimbursement
  • Bonuses
  • Potential permanent job offerings

A good travel agency negotiates these terms, whereas an independent nurse contractor negotiates them.

Finally, independent nurse contractors must have excellent accounting, time management, and decision-making skills.

They’ll be responsible for keeping track of their hourly wages, contacting potential employers, and acting unassisted.

As a result, mastering the previously mentioned skills is essential to be successful in this career.

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