Before you sign one, you need to know what you’re getting into.
Just when we think the whole COVID crisis is over, here we go with variants and a new round of global shutdowns.
But look, we’re not here to chat up variants and viruses. We’re here to talk about your travel nurse potential. Specifically your contract and what to be on the lookout for.
This is important because as the initial wave began to slow down, many travel and crisis response nurses were getting their contracts canceled midstream.
And many were pretty surprised to find it was written into the contract, but they never even realized it.
You’ll want to be aware and thoroughly examine any potential travel nursing agreement, especially if it’s a pandemic response or crisis deal, because there may be new circumstances you need to double-check are covered in the contract, such as cancellation terms.
Here’s what you should look for in a travel nursing contract to keep yourself protected.
What would trigger a contract to be canceled?
Personally speaking, I have never had a contract canceled. Perhaps I’m one of the outlier travel RNs, but it’s true. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true in that I’ve been asked to renew about 40% of the time.
But something we’re hearing and seeing more of is canceled gigs.
There are several reasons for a facility to terminate a contract that is not the fault of the travel RN. For instance, a drop in patient census that is sustained. Most likely, you were contracted due to increased admissions, and if it drops, well, we travelers frankly won’t be needed.
This happened after the first COVID wave began to taper off as many nurses were sent back home.
Another thing to be mindful of is the fly-by-night agencies. When a crisis emerges, everyone and their mother wants a piece of the contract pie, so we often see “mom and pop” travel shops start hiring travelers. The danger for us nurses is that they are likely the first to get cut, which means you, the RN, will be terminated first.
Asking for references and checking with peers is a great way to vet the agencies before signing a shady contract.
Is there a ‘cancel clause’ in your agreement?
Most all of us have bought a car, signed a lease for an apartment, maybe even made an in-app purchase on our iPhone. Well, guess what? There are little micro clauses all throughout the agreement which describe your rights and the company rights.
This is especially true in your travel contract.
While I am not an attorney, and I don’t believe you need one for this, it is essential to read and understand under what circumstances your contract may be canceled. Not only that but what will or won’t be covered by the agency or hospital if it is.
For example, your housing or travel stipends. Will you need to pay it back? How about a lease? Who picks up the tab if you need to move out and vacate?
As with anything in life, even your contract can be canceled, so be sure to empower yourself by reading that specific fine print.
Calling in sick or going COVID positive
One of the nurses I worked with tested positive for COVID and had to quarantine for 10 days. Because she was working in a COVID unit on a crisis gig, her contract specifically stated that she would be paid for lost hours if she had to ‘Q.’
Not all contracts read or will do the same, and these days the spector of quarantine could impact all of us.
What about calling in sick? Are you covered? Will you get sick pay, and furthermore, how long will it last?
These are things to know upfront.
Let’s talk health insurance
Many companies are now offering decent health insurance for their travelers.
It’s becoming a hot topic, especially as more RNs ditch the staff job and move to the nomadic nurse life. As such, health insurance is kind of a big deal. More agencies are offering this benefit, in addition to others as well.
But traveler beware, find out when the first day of coverage is, how much it is, and if you are eligible for benefits if you switch companies.
It’s true that travel nurses are more likely to get injured on the job than their housebound colleagues. In fact, exposure at work, particularly in healthcare facilities with limited PPE, is a hazard for travel nurses. As a result, you need to be ready. If you don’t have your own health insurance, check to see what type of coverage the agency offers.
Then ask yourself, is it enough?
What about Cobra?
This is a great question and one that should be asked upfront. Cobra is a continuation of your health insurance coverage after you leave your job. Typically, you have a 60-day window to sign up for Cobra, and it can be expensive.
The bottom line is not all coverage is the same so do a little research.
Other things to think about
Many nurses are leaving staff jobs to take on the travel life. If this is you, something I always recommend is to go on good terms. In other words, no negative social media posts…no ugly letters to the manager…and do it professionally so that if you had to, they’d take you back with open arms.
For instance, here, where I’m working as a traveler, we had a nurse arrive only to find out his gig had been delayed by 3-weeks. He ended up going back home only to find his last job was filled, and he had no place to go. He hadn’t left on good terms and wasn’t welcomed back.
The message I’m sharing is to really consider what other options you’d have if your contract was canceled and also to consider all options and possibilities before you sign the dotted line.
The final word
Becoming a travel nurse is not a small decision.
Make sure you know what to look out for in your contract before jumping headfirst into the world of travel nursing. Many things should be considered, including how your company will handle emergencies, whether or not you’ll get sick pay if called in sick, and if they offer health insurance–just to name a few.
It’s important to ask these questions upfront so they’re no surprises down the line when it comes time for renewal.
To learn more about the travel nursing opportunity and cities across the country, visit Bestica Healthcare and start planning your next assignment today.