Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
May 7, 2020 - 4 min read

What To Do If Your Contract Is Canceled Due to COVID-19

While many hospitals have been relying on travel nurses to help care for an overwhelming surge of coronavirus affected patients, other travel nurses may have been surprised to actually see their contract canceled due to COVID-19.

Some travel nursing specialties have been in less demand as a result of facility closures and hospitals limiting non-urgent care in hopes of stopping the spread of the virus. Travel nurses in areas such as surgery, for instance, may have seen assignments canceled, and some hospitals initially hired on large surpluses of travel nurses in anticipation of the virus — only to let them go if the patient numbers were not what they were expecting.

In many online travel nursing groups, travel nurses are sharing stories of being surprised and frustrated after having their contracts canceled as a result of COVID. “I had three Fl contracts canceled in two weeks,” said one nurse in a Facebook group for travel nurses. “It’s a big mess.”

Chances are, you probably didn’t expect to be dealing with canceled contracts in the wake of a global pandemic, but if you are facing a contract ending, here are some steps you can take to make it through.

Are you a travel nurse looking for a new assignment? Start here.

Check Your Contract

All travel nursing contracts include some kind of clause about cancellations, whether that’s specifying how an assignment has to be canceled legally, or probably more relevant to you right now — what financial costs you can recoup from the assignment.

Check your contract carefully for what it stipulates you are owed, especially for reimbursement for travel to and from the job, any expenses incurred along the way, and costs such as housing deposits or associated fees. You may also get a percentage of what you should have made from the assignment, although that will vary among agencies, especially now, with COVID.

Stay Local with a Free Hotel

If you traveled to a hot-spot to find work, only to have your contract canceled due to COVID-19, you may be able to find free housing while you either wait to see if more work will be available, or figure out your next move. You can check TravelNursing’s list of extensive free resources that include housing and hotel options that are offering free rooms for healthcare workers.

Talk to Your Recruiter

Before you pack up and leave town, be sure to speak to your recruiter about any other options that may be available for you in the area. Just be sure to double-check that your license and housing will still be valid if you are in an area that has an emergency declaration before you sign on — there’s a chance that if your assignment lasts longer than the emergency declaration, any temporary license you have may not be valid once the emergency is lifted.

Looking for a new assignment? Start here.

Document Everything

If you have a contract canceled due to COVID-19, be sure to document everything, keep receipts, and even print out any emails or communication you had with your recruiter, just in case. Since you’re a contract employee, you may be able to claim lost wages or expenses on your taxes come next spring, but be sure to consult with a tax expert about your own situation.

Check Whether You Qualify for Unemployment Benefits

If your travel nursing assignment has been canceled, you may be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. Check on your state’s unemployment website for guidelines on who qualifies, and how to apply. Just be prepared for potential longer wait times, as many unemployment agencies around the country have been overwhelmed by applicants.

Choose Your Next Assignment Carefully

Many travel nurses heroically signed up to help in COVID-19 hotspots, such as New York, to fill necessary gaps in healthcare services. And while travel nursing is an important piece of the puzzle in getting through a pandemic, the fluid nature of travel nursing also means that unfortunately, in a shortage of funds, travel nurses will most likely be the first to be canceled from a hospital that has lost revenue.

While travel nursing, as a whole, can vary from agency to agency, and even job to job, this experience of working through COVID-19 may give many new and emerging travel nurses the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and advocate for themselves as travel nurses. Before you choose your next assignment, be sure to learn carefully about what you want out of the experience. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

Will I be OK if my contract is canceled?
Do I have a place to stay I can afford or a way to get back home?
Do I value stability and a long-term contract or am I willing to take on more risk for a new learning experience?
Am I aware of everything that can happen if my contract is canceled and what my agency is responsible for?
Do I feel supported by my agency fully?

And don’t forget, even as COVID cases continue around the country, you do have the ability to choose to take a non-COVID assignment. (Yes, they still do exist!) Some travel nursing agencies have even started advertising for non-COVID assignments for nurses who are looking for other options. So if you’re looking for an assignment with more stability, don’t be afraid to seek out a contract that works for you right now.

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