What to Look for in a Travel Nursing Contract
As many hospitals scrambled to fill their floors with travel nurses to prepare for a surge of patients in the wake of COVID-19, there has been unfortunate aftermath: travel nurses unexpectedly getting their contracts canceled.
You’ll also want to carefully look over any proposed travel nursing contract and thanks to the pandemic, there may be new situations you’ll want to be sure are included and covered in the contract, like cancellation policies. Here’s what you should look for in a travel nursing contract during COVID-19 to keep yourself protected.
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What’s causing contract cancellations?
If patient census did not meet expectations, or if patients recovered sooner than anticipated, some hospitals have canceled contracts with travel nursing agencies. Travel nurses who took on work in hotspots like New York City have reported canceled contracts that left them jobless almost immediately or notice that they would be out of work soon.
And unfortunately, a situation like a global pandemic has caused an increase in unreputable travel nursing agencies sprouting up in order to try to make a quick buck. If you’re looking to take on a travel nursing assignment right now, you’ll want to take extra care to be sure you choose a reputable travel nursing agency with a good history — ask for recommendations from travel RNs who have worked with the agency, check for reviews online, and do your research.
A Clear Cancellation Policy
Make sure that your contract includes a clear cancellation policy that outlines what happens if your contract gets canceled. Be sure it covers essential questions such as: What percentage — if any — of your pay will you still receive? Will you still be reimbursed for any travel expenses you incurred to get to the location if you have already travelled and/or made arrangements for travel? Will your stipends be in effect until you can make arrangements to go back home? Will the agency work with you, if needed, to find a new placement?
Travel Expenses and Reimbursements
A huge part of taking on a travel nursing position during COVID is the expense to get there, so make sure your contract clearly outlines how that happens.
For example, if you are expected to cover your own travel expenses and then get reimbursed later, what happens if the contract gets canceled after you have already paid everything? Some nurses have reported running into just that situation and being out thousands of dollars when agencies have not been able to come up with the funds to reimburse them. If you can, find out if your agency might be willing to cover the expenses upfront, so you don’t run the risk of losing money yourself.
Quarantine and Sick Pay
Especially now, during COVID-19, it’s imperative that your travel nursing contract outlines what happens if you have to quarantine as a result of exposure during your shift, or if you actually get sick and are unable to work. Will you get sick pay or quarantine pay, and how long will it last?
In a related note, be sure you know if you are covered from a health insurance perspective. The reality is, exposure on the job, especially in healthcare facilities that may have limited PPE, is a risk for travel nurses. So you need to be prepared. If you don’t carry your own health insurance, check with your agency on what type of insurance they offer for you to purchase.
The last thing you want to do is get sick as a result of your shift, and not have the means to pay for your own healthcare.
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Especially right now, as some states have limited travel in and out, it’s important that you know what would happen to you if your contract got canceled and you were unable to come home. Your home state may have limited travel into the state since you left, for instance, so you can’t go home, or, if you were exposed, you may need to quarantine for two weeks before doing any travelling whatsoever.
It is helpful to note that in states that do have travel restrictions, most essential workers are exempt from being prohibited to travel, so you may not run into a situation where you are forced to stay in your current location. However, especially because there may be a chance of self-quarantine or unsafe conditions, you’ll definitely want to check what your housing options are should your contract get canceled. Be sure to ask: How long will you be able to stay? Who pays for the housing if your contract is canceled? What about extras, such as Internet or laundry services? If you are placed in shared housing, what options will you have in the event a roommate is exposed or quarantined?
Other Contract Considerations
If you will be leaving your current job to take on a travel nursing position, you’ll also want to consider the ramifications that resigning might have if you get canceled. For instance, Kari Goen, an Oklahoma City nurse, had to resign from her full-time job to take on a travel nursing position in NYC to help with COVID-19–only to find her contract had been canceled as soon as she had arrived.
Before you leave any current position you have to take on a COVID-19 travel assignment, it is helpful to consider what would happen if your contract was canceled. Do you have a good relationship with your previous employer to return? Do you have savings to get through while you find other work?
Be sure to consider all the possibilities before signing on that dotted line for your travel nursing contract.