The contract negotiation process in travel nursing can be a stressful time. Many things can change at
the last minute unexpectedly from the side of the facility, the agency or even the nurse. While some things are well beyond anyone’s control, other things can be avoided with proper preparation. One of the worst things a travel nurse can do is break a contract due to poor planning and ineffective communication.
It’s amazing the countless stories recruiters or unit managers will share about nurses who fail to show
up for their assignment or decide to quit after the very first shift. Nurses who make these kinds of choices don’t seem to fully realize the impact of their decision and how it affects their reputation. People talk. Recruiters, managers, directors, other nurses, account managers…everyone talks to each other. There’s no way to truly know if this recruiter went to high school with that agency branch manager, or if this account manager plays golf with the managers and directors from a certain large hospital system. Best practice is to always make solid professional decisions because they generally weigh quite heavily on future opportunities.
BREAKING A CONTRACT
When a nurse has interviewed for a position, accepted the offer, passed the on-boarding process, and
signed the contract, but then fails to show up or decides to quit during the assignment, it demonstrates a lack of respect and is highly frowned upon. There are so many steps that occur in the negotiation process that allow a nurse the opportunity to “back out” well before the assignment begins. It creates a huge problem for the facility and their staffing needs, as well as interferes with the rapport between the agency, the facility and many other players. A few reasons why some nurses have broken contracts include:
● “Better” opportunity
● Cost of living too high
● High crime rate according to the internet
● “Reason unknown” because nurse unreachable
These and many other reasons truly aren’t excusable. Most issues that arise are easily avoidable if the
proper steps are taken before signing a contract. Taking these 5 steps will help any nurse avoid common
causes for contract breaches.
1. Set goals and preferences.
Profile submission should only go to the facilities that match the set goals and preferences of the nurse.
Preferences like location, unit and minimum pay rate desired should be determined and then communicated with the recruiter so the best positions available can be found.
2. Submit to places of sincere interest.
When looking for contracts, some believe that casting a wide net will increase the chances of landing a
job. While this isn’t necessarily untrue, it can be problematic if done carelessly. Don’t apply for every position available. Try to submit profiles only to facilities that are of high interest. Ask, “If this facility offered me the position, would I actually want to take it?” If the answer is no, it’s best to leave that contract for a nurse that really wants it, and allow the facility to interview nurses that are truly interested.
3. Research the area & the facility.
This is a very key step to take well before signing a contract. Once submitted, research the area and
the facility. Consider these questions:
➢ Is it a teaching facility? What type/level unit is it?
➢ Where is the location? Is it in a safe area?
➢ How close and how much is housing?
➢ Is there accessible public transportation?
➢ If using a personal vehicle, much is gas in the area?
➢ Is the pay amount enough to cover the cost of living?
The answer to these and other questions will help determine if there truly is an interest in a certain
assignment. If something doesn’t look or feel right, leave that opportunity for someone else and have the
profile removed if it was previously submitted.
4. It’s OK to decline an offer.
Nurses aren’t obliged to any facility simply because the profile was submitted or the interview was
completed. In fact, the interview is not just for the facility to scope out the nurse, but also for the nurse to scope out the facility. Although there will be times that a facility won’t extend an offer, sometimes they will but the nurse doesn’t want to accept for whatever reason. It’s completely ok to say “No.” Be thankful for the opportunity and move on gracefully.
5. Read the contract thoroughly.
Although this should go without saying, I'm going to say it anyway: For the love of all things good and
wonderful in the world, always READ THE CONTRACT!! Read it from beginning to end, top to bottom. While many contracts have similar legal jargon, it’s important to review certain things, in particular, since they will vary from contract to contract:
➢ Contract start and finish dates
➢ Hourly wage and weekly stipend
➢ On-call policies
➢ Cancellation limits
➢ Float requirements
Contracts can be reviewed as many times as necessary until the it is to the liking of all parties involved.
Be sure to always be thorough with each and every contract review. No matter what…Don’t Flake!
Life happens. Occasionally things occur that are unavoidable and beyond anyone’s control, like a
natural disaster, a car accident that leads to a hospital admission or the unexpected death of an immediate
family member. If an unfortunate event occurs that would interfere with the start date, always, always, always COMMUNICATE! Recruiters are liaisons and will be able to work with the facility to make contract adjustments as needed.
It’s extremely important for travel nurses to carry themselves professionally. Breaking a contract,
Unfortunately, is a blatant example of less than stellar integrity and low professionalism, which is detrimental to a nurse’s reputation. Take steps to ensure reputation preservation, because if not, a nurse may find it difficult, especially after multiple offenses, to find an agency willing to partner up in the future.