Travel Nursing

Avoiding Travel Nurse Canceled Contracts

Travel Nursing and Canceled Contracts

So, what are travel nurses doing if their contract gets canceled? I wish the answer was, “Take a vacation!” But, as we all know that is impossible right now and makes the whole situation a little worse. Once the coronavirus makes its exit, I personally will be on the first plane to anywhere I can find a good deal!

As I discussed in my blog about crisis contracts, travel nursing contracts are being canceled at rapid rates for multiple reasons. The cancellation of elective surgeries, fluctuating patient populations, and the uncertainty about the course of coronavirus are all contributing factors to why so many travel RNs are out of jobs right now. This will get better and we will be stronger and more essential than ever when it’s over.

But, if you want to continue to be a travel nurse and feel confident in your contract, get back to basics and start looking at non-COVID jobs. They still exist! Here are some tips on how to find a contract that is less likely to be canceled. 

Filter Your Vivian Searches 

When you search on Vivian, try filtering by a start date that is further out, rather than looking at ASAP start dates, and scroll past jobs with the COVID-19 label at the end. Also search for 13-week contracts, versus 4-8 week assignments.  When signing a contract, ask for a clause that gives at least 2 weeks’ notice for cancellations, has guaranteed hours, is for the correct type of facility (acute versus long-term care), and has the hourly commitment that you want. 

Cancellation Clauses and Travel RN Contracts

IF your contract looks like it may be a crisis rate (high pay, high hourly commitment, no statement about cancellations)- advocate for yourself and insist on a cancellation clause that will give you two weeks notice. I said it in the article before this and I’ll say it again- I would try offering $500 less per week in exchange for the clause. Negotiate a bit. I’d rather know I have a stable, reliable position and make a little less cash, than all of a sudden be out of work for 2+ weeks. That is obviously a very personal decision, but it may protect you from being canceled. 

Research the Location Facilities

You may need to be flexible in your location choice, but it is 100% possible that you can find a non COVID assignment right now. Pay rates are still above average, and now is a great chance to save some money. Since most locations are virtually closed down, now is a good time to branch out, see somewhere new, and also still get paid!

Before searching, do a little research. Use the web and find out where the ‘hot spots’ still exist and avoid those areas if you are looking for a ‘normal’ travel nursing contract. Ask about cancellations and patients censuses in travel nursing Facebook groups, or if anyone is or was at hospitals in the location you are thinking about.

If you are able, be patient for a few weeks. This too shall pass. If you are already in a travel nursing assignment- don’t leave for greener pastures. Extend your current contract if you can. For example, I am making about half of what I could if I were to leave and go to NYC, but I am more comfortable knowing I have a job and am needed where I am at. Use Vivian’s salary tool to research the latest pay data in the area.

If the market stays like this another month, I may even seek to extend my contract and ditch my original plans to take a non-COVID assignment in the Pacific Northwest. Plans change, it happens, we adjust.

When to Avoid a Crisis Contract

Last thoughts… PLEASE DO NOT TAKE A CRISIS CONTRACT AS A FIRST TIME TRAVELER. This is a terrible idea, both for you and the people who are going to work alongside you. A ‘normal’ travel nurse contract would give you less than 2 days of orientation. Usually, nurses get a ‘classroom day’- which is just HR stuff, and 4-8 hours on the floor (only one unit, even if they are floating). EHR training is done prior to arrival as part of the onboarding process. Travel nurses are expected to start on the floor right away and be ready to take a max census right away. We are expected to adapt to not knowing the equipment and supplies, and we need to know what we don’t know (and when to ask for help!). If this sounds overwhelming and gives you anxiety, it’s not worth the money. 

This is why most of us will say nurses need at least 2 years of experience in their specialty before traveling. Yes, staff nurses are helpful- but travelers are usually making way more money than staff and the staff can get frustrated if you are completely helpless. It kind of begs the question; “What are we paying you so well for if you don’t know what you’re doing?” See? That sentiment is not fun for the staff or travelers.

Disaster response contracts are about 10x as intense as ‘normal’ travel nurse contracts and there is no way to truly be prepared for that environment, especially if you’ve never worked outside of your ‘home hospital’. I know some of y’all are superstar nurses, or have been practicing for a long time – I’m just saying be careful. Do you research, know what you are getting into.

Stay safe. Stay well. And, hopefully I’ll see you on the road soon!

Rachel Norton BSN, RN

Rachel Norton became an RN in 2007 and has been part of the Vivian team since 2019. She has always worked in critical care, and spent the first 12 years of her career working in a surgical neuroscience trauma ICU. She's also worked as a flight nurse, started travel nursing in 2010 and continued working in the ICU until joining Vivian full-time in 2022. As a user researcher, Rachel advocates for healthcare workers to help bridge the gap between employee and employer expectations.

Comment (1)

I’m extremely grateful to have started my first travel RN experience on a COVID floor with 1 year and 4 months of experience as a float nurse, and I’ve had a phenomenal experience, even with just two days of orientation and occasionally being floated. I’m in my second extension now, and I am looking forward to looking into what options may be available when my extension ends. Thanks for all your information!


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