Independent Nurse Contractor: Education and Career Information
An Independent Nurse Contractor (INC) is one of many career track opportunities for anyone considering becoming a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)—also referred to as a “Licensed Vocational Nurse” (LVN).
In most cases, Independent Nurse Contractors have amassed a good amount of experience working for an employer (i.e., hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, agencies, etc.), earned one or more special certifications, and have achieved a high status in healthcare (e.g., by becoming an NP, obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing, etc.).
The important thing to remember is that Independent Nurse Contractors work for themselves, assuming they meet the criteria set forth by licensing boards, cities, counties & states and, most important of all, the IRS. If they meet all these stringent, not-easy-to-meet criteria, nurses can then become Independent Nurse Practitioners.
As in other professions, there are pros and cons to consider, but, considering the fact that we are still in the midst of a national “not-enough-qualified-nurses-available” shortage, the prospects are very promising for those nurses that are motivated, willing to work hard, able to work independently, and willing to do what it takes to earn this special career status.
What are the Educational Requirements for an Independent Nurse Contractor?
Incredibly, the wonderful journey into nursing can begin by passing with good grades in classes such as chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, mathematics and psychology—in other words, high school isn’t too early to begin the process. But, you will need a high school diploma or equivalency in order to be accepted into a nursing program at a college or university offering associate’s and/or bachelor’s in nursing science.
Be aware, though, that some schools have a waiting list, so apply early.
For quicker-to-graduate, less-demanding academic programs, you may consider technical schools offering LPN or LVN diplomas.
Unfortunately, the credits you earn for such may not count if you decide later to pursue an Associate of Science (AS) or a Bachelor of Science (BS); also, in general LPNs/LVNs generally work under RNs, earn less than RNs, and are less likely to work as Independent Nurse Contractors.
After completing your diploma or degree, you can then take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to be licensed to practice nursing. As stated earlier, it is best if you plan to work for an employer for a few years before you contemplate on becoming an Independent Nurse Contractor.
In fact, Independent Nurse Contractors often have advanced practice specialties, including ICU, Trauma, ER, wound care, midwifery, neonatal/preemie, etc., certifications/experience. It’s the fact that these specialties are so hard to find – as much as the need to fill in gaps left by unavailable staff – that have created a need for INCs.
What Duties do Independent Nurse Contractors Perform?
Independent Nurse Contractors perform many of the same duties that regular nurses perform. But, in general, INCs are not as closely supervised, often work by themselves, have to take full responsibility for their actions, and don’t have anyone to delegate the work to.
Some of the duties Independent Nurse Contractors perform include taking vitals, designing, monitoring & implementing health management plans, giving & assessing medications, performing exams & health assessments, evaluating equipment status & performance, etc.
Although “independent,” INCs often do report to or must be supervised (even if only remotely) by a physician. This is true even for NPs, which is required in most states.
How much do Independent Nurse Contractors Earn?
How much INCs earn depends on several factors, including how many jobs they’ve completed, what payment arrangements their contract calls for, and what their operating expenses happen to be. The last item should stand out the most. INCs may have to cover traveling and lodging expenses, as well as the costs of supplies and equipment; they also often have to pay accountants and lawyers to take care of administrative and legal responsibilities.
If they accurately assess their costs and include such when they charge for their services, Independent Nurse Practitioners can earn an average of $72,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This figure can be much greater, such as for Independent Nurse Contractors who are also Nurse Practitioners (NP), who have an established set of clients, who have worked hard to establish a good reputation as a dependable, knowledgeable healthcare provider, and who have special certification in a seriously-understaffed area (i.e., nursing instructors, major trauma medicine, etc.).
What are the Pros and Cons of becoming an Independent Nurse Contractor?
Like any other career choice, becoming an Independent Nurse Contractor has its rosy aspects, as well as its not-so-attractive aspects. Then again, some people would argue that the negative aspects of any profession provide valuable lessons and set the bar higher than it would be if it were all “good news.”
As a general rule, nursing isn’t for everyone. But, if you can deal with or overcome the negative aspects, you will be sure to greatly enjoy the many benefits and accolades that come with this wonderful profession
Here are the major “cons” for Independent Nurse Contractors:
•You first have to become a regular nurse & spend several years building up experience, confidence and skills;
•You will have to be responsible for managing your hours, work schedule, patient load, etc.
•You can’t delegate much, if anything.
•You have to take responsibility for your own work.
•You have to obtain your own liability insurance
•You will have to pay your own taxes.
•You will have to keep careful business accounts of all expenses and earnings—you will have to report such on a timely basis.
•You won’t qualify for many of the benefits employees generally get: health insurance, worker’s compensation, unemployment, regular guaranteed paychecks.
•You will have to negotiate your own client opportunities.
The many “pros,” though, include:
•You are your own boss.
•You can set your own hours and schedule.
•You don’t have risk taking responsibility for other peoples’ negligence or incompetence.
•You can establish over the years a wonderful, loyal list of satisfied clients and patients.
•You have more control over the quality of care your patients receive.
•You have some control over how much you earn—limited only by your business skills, ability to deal with clients, and the need for your skills and experience in the industry.
•You can increase your workload and opportunities by continuing your education—maybe someday becoming an NP, gaining additional hard-to-find certifications, obtaining a PhD in nursing, becoming a nursing instructor, etc.
•Being able to move around regularly; thus, reducing the chance for boredom, getting burned out by doing the same thing day after day, or being obligated to work for bad employers or rude clients.
•You can fire patients—a luxury most staff nurses simply aren’t afforded.
•You have more independence to make decisions, make positive changes and improve over-all care for all your patients/clients.
In general, there are no internship requirements for nurses, but nurses do have to complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to complete their degrees. You will, for example, spend job-equivalent hours (sometimes 8 to 12 hours per day) at a healthcare site after completing most of your life-sciences and nursing courses. These are hands-on opportunities to practice what you learned in class—in other words, “clinical” are about putting theory to practical use.
Although AAs and BSs are held in higher esteem than LPN/LVN diplomas, the latter, ironically, generally include more hands-on practical training—hence the name “practical.”
There is no question that nursing will remain a “hot” profession to get into for the foreseeable future. As a matter of fact, nursing is expected to grow by 16% by 2024.
There are three main reasons for this: the medical establishment would come to a grinding halt without nurses; secondly, the shortage in nursing is expected to stick around for a few more years; and, thirdly, nursing is a high burn-out profession.
If you have what it takes, by all means, become a nurse. With time, if you are talented, highly-skilled and very committed to helping people, you should also seriously consider becoming an Independent Nurse Contractor.