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Travel Nurse Contracts: Why 13 Weeks?

Whether it’s to cover shifts when a member of staff leaves suddenly or to accommodate seasonal fluctuations, travel nurses are often used to fill gaps in staffing at US hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

Travel nurses can be recruited on both short- and long-term contracts, which are typically between 8 and 26 weeks, with the most common contracts lasting 13 weeks. The question is, why is 13 weeks the optimum time for a travel nurse? In fact, several factors determine the standard contract as 13 weeks, including: 

  • Housing. One of the main reasons comes down to standard apartment contracts in the US being 13 weeks, so a contract reflecting this makes life a lot easier for nurses. 

  • Leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, so 13-week contracts adequately cover these periods of absence. 

  • Orientation. Onboarding and orientation periods for new nurses can be anything from four weeks, all of the way up to 12, meaning that travel nurses can provide the ideal cover as new starters acclimatize. 

Times Are Changing 

Shifts in staffing needs, lifestyles, and even technology have meant contracts for travel nurses can now be more fluid. For example, the emergence of Airbnb and Vrbo means that nurses can now arrange their own housing and are no longer constrained by 13-week accommodation contracts. 

Additionally, hiring nurses on shorter contracts can often work out to be more expensive and can fail to provide adequate continuity of care for patients. This means that facilities are looking at alternative options to bolster their teams. 

What Are The Alternatives? 

Increasingly, healthcare facilities are going global in a quest to secure the right nursing talent who will them reduce costs and improve patient care. In fact, there are 3 million immigrants already in the healthcare system, accounting for 1 in 4 workers in that field, according to Harvard Medical School (2019). 


Find out more about international nurses and other staffing alternatives in our free guide - 'Alternatives to the traditional 13-week assignment'.

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