Travel Nursing Advice Column - Questions and Answers about Schedules
See questions and answers about traveling nurse schedules here, or ask your own.
Are the nurses allowed to take vacation time or time off?
If you mean do you get PTO from your travel nursing company to take while on assignment, then I would say that is not the most common benefits given, but if you look really hard you may find it.
However if you mean can you take time off in between assignments then the answer is yes. It is really only up to you and your finances regarding how long you want to take off.
The one caveat is that you don’t want to take so much time off in between assignments that your nursing skills begin to get rusty. In fact most companies will require you to have recent experience, so taking something extreme, like a year off would not be a good idea.
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I quit my permanent position to start travel nursing and I am working with 3 agencies right now. How long does it take from the recruiter submitting you until you sign a contract? What is the average wait time?
How quickly you sign a contract will depend largely upon when a placement comes through that is the right match for you. It can generally take anywhere from 1-6 months, but usually around 3, for you and your recruiter to get acquainted and execute a plan. Once a prospective assignment is on the table you will typically have a phone interview with the facility – usually 2-3 weeks before the start of a contract – and things will progress from there provided all of your documentation is in place and your drug screen and background check goes through. For a more specific timeframe don’t be shy to ask your recruiters what to expect.
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I was blacklisted from HCA hospitals due to my complaining to a manager about unsafe practices, will this make traveling assignments difficult to find for me?
Being blacklisted from HCA shouldn’t make it difficult for you to find traveling assignments as there are many other options for hospitals. Discuss your situation with your recruiter and he or she can assist you in finding the right fit.
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What is the pay scale for travel nursing to Alaska? Is there hazard pay? Isolation pay? How flexible are the schedules?
Pay for travel nurses is always different based on a lot of factors, like your company, specialty and location just to name a few, but this link should give you a range to look at.
Travel Nursing Pay in Alaska (http://www.simplyhired.com/a/salary/search/q-travel+nursing/l-alaska)
Most companies offer health insurance for their travelers, but I have never heard of hazard or isolation pay for a travel nurse.
The schedules are somewhat flexible, but it is important to keep in mind that as a traveler you are there to help fill gaps and that at times can mean working the least desirable shifts.
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What is an average day like for a travel nurse?
At the hospital the average day for a travel nurse is really no different than that of a permanent nurse. The biggest differences will come during the first week when you are getting acclimated to your new surroundings and different protocols and ways of doing things. You may not have much orientation and you will be expected to come in ready to go. There will be a lot of new people to meet and the first week may be a whirlwind. Other than though it will be pretty much nursing as usual.
Away from the hospital you can live like a local, like a tourist or somewhere in between. Hopefully you will be in good safe housing that is close to the hospital where you work and in a city or region at least that you find interesting. If you are not the kind of person who gets easily homesick then your time away from the hospital should be a lot of fun. These days with modern technology though it is easier than ever to stay in touch and avoid loneliness on the road. A lot of what you do will depend on whether you are traveling alone or with someone, but either way it is a great way to see the country.
Here are some links to previous advice we have given on succeeding as a travel nurse.
5 Simple Ways to get on Good Footing as a Travel Nurse
5 Ways to Make a Bad Impression on your First day of Traveling Work
Travel Nurse That's Homesick?
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Do travel companies ever allow a sick day in contract? One sick day is not only losing pay but costs out of pocket. If so how would be the best way to word it in contract? It's scary to think I might get the flu or something and miss a week!!
Travel nursing companies do not typically allow for a sick day in contracts. The definition of a contract worker, which is what a travel nurse really is, is that the worker is paid for hours worked. Now some companies may offer a PTO option, but if they do, the money for this is probably coming out of your hourly pay anyway so you are really not gaining anything. If you are concerned about being sick and missing time you should definitely discuss it with your recruiter and understand what your company’s policy is. Most of the time a day here or there missed during an assignment is not a big deal. Hospitals know that getting sick every once in awhile is going to happen. It is only a problem if it lingers and you have to take an extended period of time off.
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I am considering travel for more flexibility; generally, how flexible are the schedules and what are the average pay rates for critical care?
Typically the flexibility that comes with travel nursing is not so much about the shift and hours as it is about where you work and having the ability to stop and start assignments when you want to. As far as actual work schedule flexibility, there will be some, but it will be different on every assignment you work and definitely be something you talk to your recruiter about. You can certainly just not take any job that doesn't give you the flexibility in your schedule as you want. It really just depends on how big of a sticking point it is for you.
As far as the average pay rates for Critical Care, it's hard to say for sure. Pay rates can vary so much based on the location and company. According to SimplyHired.com,
the average annual salary for a Critical Care travel nurse is $53,000. You will want to shop around and see what is offered. You may even want to take the number they give you and run it by a few travel nursing forums like HealthcareTravelBook.com or UltimateNurses.com to see if it is in line with what others are getting.
My husband and I are both nurses and currently on an assignment. We have 1 week off in our contract so we can go home.
We were assured by our recruiter that the hospital would work with us in staggering
our days off so we could work the first part of 1 week, take off our week in contract,
and then stagger our days to the end of the next week so we would essentially
be off 2 weeks. Now we're not sure if the hospital wiil do this and don't think
they'll let us know in time to get a decent priced plane ticket home. Now what?
This is an unfortunate situation. I hope it ends up working out for you.
Meanwhile, perhaps this is a good learning experience for the future. In the future,
if you want time off during a contract, you must tell your recruiter that you
need certain dates off as a stipulation of accepting the assignment. Then you
make sure that it is written in the contract. Then, when you get to your assignment.
You may want to also check with them and ask them if they are aware of the dates
that you need off. Otherwise, if it is left to some unknown dates that you hope
will work out then it isn't clear cut enough for the hospitals and they may often
overlook the inconvenience of schedule changes. Unfortunately, this is not the
first time I have heard of similiar situations as yours involving a couples who
The recruiter has to understand, from the beginning, what
your stipualations are in order to accept the contract and then it must be written
in. This way the communications are clear and the contract speaks for itself.
know this doesn't help your current situation. Good luck and let us know how it
all turns out. You can email me and let me know. We would all like to know if
you end up getting to go anywhere with your husband or not.
Well, here it is Sept. 7 and my schedule came out with
everyday off that I asked for except one. My husband's has him working everyday
that he asked off for. So essentially he only got what was guaranteed in our contract
but he's still going to ask to have it changed. So far we have gone to San Francisco
a couple of times while being off together. Very nice. We are definitely learning
the hard way about contracts.
I guess you learn with every assignment. Thanks
for the concern.
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We do have a traveler wanting to know what red flags to look
for in a contract. We would like to open this up for discussion.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you have any suggestions on what to look out for based on your
Watch out for extra hours - expected by the hospital, but not in
the contract. Another travel RN (from a different company), started
a job with me. We both had contracts for 36 hrs./week (three 12
hr. shifts) but when we got there, they said that of course, we
had to do an extra 8 hrs. every other week to make-up our 40 hour
work week. Then, they said, please fill-in the call coverage sheet.
Since both of us had chosen this particular location because we
wanted to spend time with our families who lived in the area, we
were in a quandary: Insist that they honor our contracts, or be
"team players" and work many more hours than we had planned.
My fellow traveler chose the first option but worked many extra
shifts on a prn basis. I chose the team player approach but was
not totally satisfied with my choice and wouldn't repeat it. If
came up again I'd go with the prn choice.
Another thing to ask about is, 'How long, on average, do the nurses
have to stay after their shift to finish their charting?' I'd been
used to a system which frowned on having ANY unfinished charting
at end of shift. All the RNs on this unit routinely stayed late
to chart, it was accepted that you couldn't get the patient care
and your charting done in your regular work hours. I remember one
particularly horrendous shift followed by four hours of charting!!
This left only eight hours turn around time before I had to be back
for another 12(+) hour shift. Without my husband traveling with
me as support staff, this schedule would have been impossible to
Since this assignment was not allowing the desired time with family,
my fellow traveler and I didn't renew our contracts. Each time we
were asked, we stated that we were making other plans. In spite
of this, on the last day of my contract, within hours of my departure
to my next job, I was told that I had to stay and work because they
had me on the schedule!! As I recall it went all the way to an agency
vice president before the supervisor admitted that she might have
made a mistake and I was free to go.
This job was unusual in other ways: we were paid by the hospital,
but not considered hospital staff. Consequently, neither the hospital
nor the agency would give us health care coverage (the agency did
give a small stipend towards the plan that we found for ourselves,
however). Neither organization made any effort to clarify this situation
before we arrived. This peculiar financial arrangement made it impossible
to participate in any 401 plans for the duration of this contract.
Don't be bamboozled by agency staff. One recruiter told me that
I had to verbally agree to a contract before I'd seen it and would
be bound by that verbal consent. Take your business somewhere else.
You're worth money to the agency - don't work for anyone who makes
you uncomfortable. Agency and facility staff should answer all your
questions satisfactorily and willingly, it's what they expect of
That said, I loved my co-workers at this assignment. We gave good
care and saved lives under difficult conditions. Nurses are wonderful
people everywhere you go and traveling is a fun way to practice.
Just give the same care and attention to your arrangements before
you go as you would to a patient assigned to your care.
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I have worked in ER for the last 4 years. Before that I worked
for an ortho. surgeon, and have 24 years of direct/indirect OR exp.
I have floated occ. on my days off, in the OR. I'm I marketable
for an OR assignment?
Technically, agencies and hospitals want to see ONE YEAR OF RECENT
EXPERIENCE in the field you wish to travel. However, you have nothing
to lose by trying. You may be able to find an agency who is willing
to submit you. You would want to present it as working the last
4yrs in the ER while also working perdiem in the OR. Furthermore,
a good reference letter from the OR director or even a nurse you
have worked with in the OR would be helpful. Make sure they mention
that they have been working with you in the OR during this last
year or last few years whatever it may be. List the OR and the ER
on your work history so they will be able to call if they want to
and verify that you work there occassionally and that you are competent.
Then of coarse show all your previous experience in the OR. Tell
the agency you would really like to work in the OR when you travel
and if they can find you work than you will go with them. It is
worth a try. The letters of reference from the OR could really help
you. The worst that could happen is they say no. Big deal. If nobody
will accept you then you will have to make more decisions in planning
your future. For now, it is worth a try.
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I reactivated with a local agency for a contract that never appeared.
I now am being scheduled per diem, and have many shifts cancelled
due to internal staffing changes. Short of moving on, any advise?
Is this the only agency in town? You could sign up with a few more
agencies and keep your options open. Are the internal staffing changes
occuring in the company or in the hospitals? I am unclear. Depending
on the situation, you can tell the agency that you wish to speak
with one experienced staff member when you call (request him or
her) because you can't afford to have that many cancellations. You
may want to talk to a supervisor to get a fuller understanding of
the problem, then nicely explaiin your situation and ask for a solution
for the time being while things are being straightened out. Put
the ball in his or her quart and let them come up with a solution
that can help you and them out toward getting you the shifts you
are scheduled for.
Thank-you for responding so quickly. The staffing changes are
occurring within the facilities themselves. The Hospital System
will schedule for open shifts, then cancel 2 hours prior to the
start of the shift because census is lower than expected, or they
fill within the hospital for less cost than agency. This now leaves
me with at least one if not two cancelled shifts per week.
Yes, there are a few agencies in town, (Green Bay) most are relatively
new, and are not quite as established. I am concerned about conflict
of interest issues if I sign up with another agency, in addition
to the one I am currently working with. I have even approached the
agency about different hospitals which have consistently advertised
for ER nurses, and pushed them to approach these hospitals. They
have apparently done this, but have not secured a foothold yet.
I have an appointment today to speak with my former employer about
returning, just because I need to have a steady income. I am divorced
with 4 teenagers...I don't have a second paycheck to back me up.
I will probably stay on with the agency, but work only limited hours
with them. I had hoped that working the local agency, which is also
nationwide would provide a door to my eventual plans of traveling
2 years from now. My former hospital is a critical access hospital
that runs with only 1 RN in the ER, and uses RT for backup. The
hospital has gotten much busier, but no RN positions have been added.
It worries me that I feel I am putting my license on the line each
shift I work up there, which is one of the reason's I left to begin
I understand your struggle with politics and the need to work. I
am not sure how big Green Bay is. Smaller towns are a little more
difficult to get the hours you need. However, it should be in your
best interest to sign up with all these agencies. Hospitals have
a list of agencies they work with and they will often staff that
day with a nurse from the agency that returned their calls first,
or the one they like to work with the best and so on. I have had
situations where the hospital told one of my agencies they didn't
need a nurse anymore and meanwhile the other company ended up sending
me to the same hospital. Who knows how they pick the agency for
that day, but you want to make sure you are in the file for choosing.
Depending on the norm of the area, some agencies will take it personal
if you sign up with another agency, but most of the time they understand
and they see their competition more on the hospital end than with
the nurse. You are a nurse who is will to work for anyone that can
place you. It is their job to compete for the work. If one of them
calls you to work, but you are already scheduled somewhere than
you can simply tell them you are unavailable that day, but you are
available so far on the other days. They don't need to know your
Agencies are just glad to have experienced nurses to work. Don't
worry about this affecting your future travel plans. The agency
you have been working with and many other agencies will be glad
to work with you when you are ready to travel.
Can you apply to any other hospitals in town instead of the one
that scares you? What if you worked part-time there and the other
days were registery? So many options to consider. Good luck. There
is no doubt that one of the disadvantages of local registry is that
you have no guarantee of hours. Sometimes, even if you do get a
shift, you may be sent home early. The larger the city (more hospitals)
the easier it is because there are more options to fall back on.
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I have been traveling for almost a year now (2 asignments). i
have had little difficulty finding assignments until now. my last
assignment ended 6/24 and i have been out of work since. im working
with 2 agencies and have submitted to about 12 hospitals and have
not had any interviews. i was interviewed faster when i had no travel
experience! i have gone over my profiles and can't find any reason
to not have any Responses. very frustrating! is this just the nature
of the beast or is there somethng else going on? do others have
this problem??? please advise!!
What is your specialty? The demand for certain specialties can vary.
Are you looking to travel in a particular area? I am not sure what
is happening without knowing more. I would to suggest you sign up
with more than 2 agencies in order to keep your options open. The
competition among agencies for positions is increasing
I did finally get an assignment yesterday. It isn't my chice
of location or specialty but it's not bad and I can't afford to
be picky at this point!! I wen with a bigger agency-I'm wondering
if that was the problem. Thank you so much for your help. I appreciate
the time you spent!!
I am glad you found work. Larger agencies tend to have a bigger
selection of assignments, yet they are often less personal. You
want to keep yourself signed up with at least 5 to 10 agencies of
various sizes so the odds are in your favor. Then start looking
around a month before your assignment is up. Good luck and thanks
for the update.
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