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Demand for Nurses
Nurses may be the most in-demand health care position in the country.

Independent Nurse Contractor

What Does an Independent Nurse Contractor Do?

Independent nurse contractors perform the same duties as other nurses, only they work on a contractual basis rather than being directly employed by a health care provider. Travel nurses are typically independent nurse contractors as well. Because they work under contract, they are free to choose to work wherever they want for whichever client is in need of their services, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician's offices, nursing homes and home health care agencies. Since the U.S. is currently in the midst of a nursing shortage, independent nurse contractors play a major role in filling the gap in under-served areas and at medical facilities that are having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified nurses. Many independent nurse contractors are self-employed; others work through agencies. Their duties as a nurse are similar to that of nurses across the U.S.—they take medical histories, develop and initiate a plan of care for a patient, monitor and record a patient's recovery, administer medications and treatments, and educate patients on their health condition.

How Can I Become an Independent Nurse Contractor?

The first step toward becoming an independent nurse contractor is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most people earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. Before you can become an independent nurse contractor, you typically must first gain experience as a staff nurse in a hospital or some other health care setting. Agencies usually look to bring on experienced nurses, and if you wish to start your own contract business, it is important that you have the experience to succeed.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for an Independent Nurse Contractor?

The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, and those who choose to be independent nurse contractors have the added benefit of being able to choose the hours they will work and what health care provider they will work for. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Independent nurse contractors can often negotiate higher salaries because their services are being used on a temporary basis. The average annual salary for an independent nurse contractor is $72,000, according to, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. However, a number of factors can affect your salary as an independent nurse contractor, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you choose to work in a metropolitan or rural area. Advanced practice nurses (who are trained at the master's level) also earn significantly higher salaries on average as contract nurses.

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A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree could help registered nurses (RNs) seek broader professional responsibilities and career opportunities. If you are an RN and want to advance your career, Purdue Global's online Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program could help you pursue new opportunities in specialized nursing and nursing management.

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