Travel Nursing Close to Home? Debunking the 50-Mile Rule

While the term "travel nursing" conjures visions of exciting locales far-from-home, many nurses are asking, "Can I be a travel nurse in my own city?"

Lauren Baliya, Travel Nurse Recruiter for LeaderStat, confirms she receives that very question consistently. The best answer to this question is not a simple, straightforward yes but rather a complex, somewhat complicated, "Yes, it's possible."

The complexities that arise are generally focused around the interpretation of "radius rules." While many people - nurses, and recruiters alike, pin the radius requirements to IRS regulations, radius rules are established by individual facilities or staffing agencies. There is no set, engraved in stone 50-mile rule!

For instance, a specific hospital may have a "radius rule," which requires the travel nurse's tax home to be a certain distance from the facility, possibly 50 or 100 miles. Reasons for putting such requirements in place include—

  • Eliminating the possibility that their current full-time nursing staff may opt for the travel assignments, creating additional positions to fill
  • Ensuring that their efforts to cast a wider net for nursing candidates via traveling nurse assignments are not hindered
  • To maintain the established definitions that differentiate bill rates, shift/staffing processes and procedures, and perks between PRN, local contracts, and travel nursing contracts.

It's important to note that a healthcare facility can set whatever mileage rules they want to exclude nurses that they consider local from accepting travel nurse positions.

Confusion also surfaces around the topic of tax-free stipends. Often, the 50-mile radius rule is wrongly attached to the ability to accept tax-free stipends. Again, the IRS has no mile radius stipulation regarding allowing stipends as part of a travel nurse's compensation package.

According to IRS Publication 463, the ability to accept tax-free stipends is determined by the need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away from home and must include an overnight stay. The existence of a "tax home" comes into play as well. It also further complicates the issue, as some travel nurses take on continuous assignments and do not have a home base. To ensure there will be no surprises when the tax-filing time rolls around, it's wise for each travel nurse to consult with a tax professional about his/her specific situation.

Why choose a local or "more local" travel assignment? Remember that a "more local" assignment may still be located two hours or more from home. The reasons are as varied as are the professionals who seek out local assignments. They may include:

  • The desire to take on a second, short-term employment opportunity, in addition to a primary job.
  • A personal or family situation, or possibly an upcoming relocation, may make a short-term assignment the wise choice over a permanent one.
  • Perhaps no long-term positions are locally available in the specific area of nursing preferred, while several short-term assignments are open.
  • A desire to avoid the workplace politics that come with a permanent position may encourage nurses to go the travel nurse route.
  • The higher compensation that often accompanies travel nursing assignments is enticing.

Still confused? That’s okay! This can be a tricky topic to fully understand but our recruiters are here to help.


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LeaderStat specializes in direct care staff, interim leadership, executive recruitment, travel nursing and consulting for healthcare organizations nationwide.