When I first considered traveling, I was excited to gain more healthcare experience, visit new locations, and of course, make more money. It never occurred to me that I would or could have my travel nurse contract cancelled at any time, for any reason.
Having your contract cancelled as a travel nurse is no longer a phenomenon as it has been in the past and it can happen. It happened to me in a specialty that I thought was in high demand. Contract cancellations can occur before a contract begins, during a contract term, and/or prior to/during an extension. Here are my thoughts and tips on Travel Contract Cancellations.
What is a Travel Assignment Contract
Travel nurses work under a short-term contract ranging from 4 weeks to 13 weeks. Although 26-week assignments are possible, it can be uncommon within the industry. International contracts can last from 1 to 2 years. Once a contract is completed, travel nurses may be offered an extension for additional weeks or find a new position.
Who can Cancel Contracts
Both hospitals and travel nurses can cancel travel assignment contracts.
Preventing Travel Nurse Contract Cancellations
In my travels, I have never encountered a way to prevent facilities from cancelling contracts. With that being said, there are “clauses” you can have written into your contracts that may assist you if your contract does happen to be cancelled. Your agency can include reimbursements for travel expenses if your contract just so happens to be cancelled. My only advise is to remember that your contract is between yourself and your agency. The facility has a separate contract with your agency.
In the world of traveling healthcare, it is important to remember that agencies are in the business of making the facility happy, so the facility will continue to use their services in the future. The agencies will do everything in their power to keep them that way. Though it is unfair to travelers, it is the way of the business.
Hospitals Cancelling Contracts
There are a few reasons hospitals cancel contracts.
Hospitals can cancel your contract prior to your start date. One reason for early cancellation is secondary to seasonal locations. In Florida and Arizona, contracts during the winter are more likely to be cancelled secondary to the influx of “snowbirds” during the colder months. Facilities attempt to predict staffing needs during this time period and can cancel contracts if census is low.
Recently, I was cancelled from a hospital in Florida due to low census in January. However, the same hospital contacted me a month after my contract cancellation to inquire if I was still interested in working with them as the census had greatly increased and was “unexpected.”
Early cancellation can also occur during times of EMR (electronic medical record) conversions. Hospitals increase the staffing with travel nurses, so their own staff can acclimate to the new EMR systems. There are times during these conversions that facilities will delay contract start dates and eventually cancel contracts if the need is no longer needed. Though the money prospective is great for EMR conversions, I have never personally accepted one of these contracts for this reason.
Reasons for Hospitals Cancelling Contracts
One of the most common contract cancellations while on assignment is secondary to poor traveler performance/behavior. This can include, but not limited to: attendance issues, staff complaints, patient complaints, insufficient knowledge of the specialty, or personality conflicts.
As professionals, it is important to not only understand our specialty but also show up for our assigned shifts. I have heard of travelers who enter the profession with less than one year of experience and expect to be educated while traveling. Unfortunately, this is never the case. Facilities hire travelers based on the understanding that they can perform their job responsibilities with minimal assistance and a short orientation period (sometimes consisting of 4 hours, two days, or more depending on the facility).
Showing up for your assignments has also become another issue I have witnessed on my assignments. Unexcused absences are another way to have your contract cancelled early. We all understand that times of illness or emergencies occur; however, if a traveler consistently cancels every week or every other week it hurts the healthcare team as a whole just as missing a staff nurse would hurt.
Traveling Healthcare Professionals Cancelling Contracts
Travel nurses have the ability to cancel their contracts at any time for good reason. Though you can cancel your contract, it is not recommended that you do. Reasons for contract cancellations can including, but not limited to: family emergencies, unsafe facilities, facilities not observing contractual agreements, and/or personal health problems.
Cancelling your contract for family emergencies and health problems are both valid reasons. In 2017, my husband’s mother became terminally ill in the middle of my contract. It required us to return home and care for her during a period of two months. She is now stable and comfortable; however, I would not advise you make this a common practice in your career. Many times, your recruiter can negotiate your terms to avoid facility blacklisting and lessen any financial consequences.
Cancelling your contract regarding facilities not observing contractual agreements or unsafe facilities is another issue. If your license is not at risk, I would advise you stay at the contract and finish to avoid personal penalties. However, if there is a chance your license is at risk, I would advise you speak with your recruiter to discuss what your options are for cancellations.
Consequences for Cancelling a Contract
Traveler’s cancelling contracts have consequences when it comes to housing and agency trust.
When a traveler has agency provided housing, the traveler is held liable for the remainder of their lease. If the traveler has their own housing arrangements, the traveler would need to deal with early termination of their lease and consequences associated with that.
If a traveler cancels a contract habitually, it can make it difficult for them to find future employment opportunities or facility references. I always advise not to burn your bridges with traveling healthcare agencies especially those who hold exclusive contracts with exclusive facilities. I met a traveler along the way that stated she left a contract with one company because she didn’t like the facility she was placed at. She gave no notice and offered no explanation. When she went to apply for a different facility with a different company, she learned that she had been blacklisted from this facility because her previous company held exclusive contract rights there.
Your Contract was Cancelled. What now?!
Rule number one: Do Not Panic. Contract cancellations do not occur often, but they do happen. As travelers it is key that we are flexible within our industry and possess coping skills to deal with the situation.
Tip #1: Always have a Plan B. If by chance, your contract was cancelled it is important to have a plan B with your recruiter to discuss other opportunities. If you have already traveled to your next location prior to your contract cancellation, attempt to find other opportunities within the area.
Tip #2: If your current recruiter is unable to find new placement, speak with another travel agency. There are hundreds of them out there! I have already covered the importance of working with multiple travel nursing agencies in a previous post. However, it is important to remember that there are other opportunities and agencies can offer different locations and benefits.
Tip #3: Always be financial prepared in case of a contract cancellation. We always have three months’ worth of expenses in our account in cause a contract is cancelled or something unexpected happens. This covers us and decreases our risk of many different financial burdens.
Tip #4: Always have your documentation and licensure information available. It can be difficult and awkward if your agency requests additional copies of your documentation and they are 3,000 miles away at your tax home. Keep your documents secured! Either on your computer or in a secured folder location when the need arises.
Tip #5: When researching future contracts, research the facility regarding previous contract cancellations. There are many Facebook groups and Google searches regarding facility cancellations online. Some facilities may be listed as a habitually contract cancellation location, you may want to reconsider the facility.