This is a subject I have seen come up a LOT in the travel nurse Facebook groups. New travel nurses hear over and over again “PUT IT IN YOUR CONTRACT”. This has led to lots of posts from new travelers asking for clarification for what exactly should go into a contract.
Every contract will probably be a little bit different. Pay will of course vary, along with facility policies and stipulations. In addition, each hospital has different traveler policies regarding floating, scheduling, and cancelling. Your best bet to get the most accurate answers is to ask thorough questions during your phone interview with the manager because they are your most direct source prior to your in-person orientation.
Two things to remember are:
- Just because you can ask for something, doesn’t mean the facility will say yes. Depending on the contract, what the unit’s needs are, and how desperate they are for staff, providing too many stipulations could risk you not being selected for your preferred job or location.
- It may not be a company or recruiter’s fault if something can’t be put in your contract. Guaranteed hours or float policy may come directly from the facility, so if your recruiter cannot guarantee things in these areas, it may be because they don’t want to lie or misinform you.
Now…on to what you can reasonably ask for in each contract! This is just a rough guideline. I by no means put these stipulations in every contract, but I have also been lucky to work at traveler-friendly facilities so far. This list could very well evolve and change with my future assignments.
- Time off
- This to me is the epitome of why I travel. Yes, the money is nice. But I quickly learned as a new grad that the thing I value most is time. I can now plan vacations, trips to see friends and family, girls’ trips, etc. without having to worry if it’s “my weekend to work” or if my PTO request will get approved. To me, this is the exchange of not getting PTO or guaranteed work. I take a risk and in return, I get to dictate when I get my time off.
- Guaranteed Hours (Of some sort)
- One of the first things experienced travelers will say is to get guaranteed hours. This means that even if a facility cancels you, they have to pay your wages. There are a couple of ways this can be done.
- First, you could have a certain number of allowed cancelled hours per contract. Most of the time I’ve heard 36 hours or 3 shifts. Personally, I will accept this condition because I know I can financially handle being canceled for 3 shifts in 13 weeks without pay. That being said, I have yet to be cancelled from any of my facilities.
- Or, you could have an absolute no cancel rule. This means you will be guaranteed work no matter what. The only downside of this is you may find yourself being creatively used. I.E. The hospital doesn’t want to send you home and pay you so they find another use for you. You may be expected to act as a CNA, a sitter, etc. Not saying this is a great way for a hospital to handle things, but it happens quite frequently to travelers hospitals don’t want to send home.
- Floating Guidelines
- Many travelers are quick to jump on the “No float” train. Here are my thoughts on this: I would specify if there are any specific areas you cannot float to due to medical conditions, pregnancy, or general skill level. Of course, facilities should not float you to an area that you are not qualified to work, and you should speak up if they try to do so.
- For example, I will sometimes work as a Pediatric nurse within an adult facility, so I make sure to address which areas I could potentially float to in my interview. Only once was a position appointed to me that I was not forewarned of. I contacted my recruiter and my company continued to have an open line of communication with me about the appropriateness of my work assignments thereafter.
- The bottom line is: if you trust your company to back you up, and you trust yourself to be able to speak up in unsafe situations, these guidelines may not be as necessary. However, if you have very strong feelings about specific areas or types of work, then ask your recruiter to put it in your contract.
- Block Scheduling
- This particular request may come with a higher risk of a nurse being passed over due to lack of flexibility, but many nurses find hospitals willing to accommodate this request no problem. Keep in mind many hospitals are hiring travelers to “fill holes”, so they may not want someone who can’t work an odd day here or there. I for one have been lucky in my 4 assignments and always gotten a nice schedule without contractual stipulations, but if this is something you won’t budge on, it is something you should definitely have written into your contract.
- Specific Weekend Requirements
- I always make sure to bring up weekend schedules in the phone interview with a manager. Typically travelers follow the same rule as full-time staff: every other weekend or every third seems to be the most common. However, I have had a manager get wish-washy and state “Well, we will have to put you where we need you.”
- As someone whose husband works Monday to Friday, I value my weekends and had I decided to take this job offer (I accepted a different one), then I would have specified a weekend requirement in my contract to ensure I kept my sanity and my personal life in order during those 13 weeks.
I think in the day and age of social media, many people have heard all of the horror stories of travel nursing, and this leads to a lot of stress over what to put in a travel nurse contract. The key is to find a good company who writes straightforward contracts, and to remember to stick up for yourself if something wrong is happening. Try to remember that travel nursing does require flexibility, so be alert of the differences between something that is unsafe or unethical versus something that you just do not want to do.
This list is not meant to cover the most basic aspects of a contract. Shift to be worked, unit, pay, overtime rate should be listed in ANY contract. This is meant to give travel nurses an idea of the kinds of requests they can reasonably make within their contract. It’s a common misconception by some staff nurses that travelers make more money, so we should go along with anything. However, we do not get PTO, sick time, or a guarantee to have any sort of job. So for me, these are all reasonable requests that can help outweigh the cons of traveling against the pros.
To read more advice about travel nursing, my thoughts on night shift and health, and other nursing-related topics, check out this page!