By November 3, 2010 1 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: What can I do if my first contract is cancelled?


A nurse recently wrote with an unfortunate first experience within the world of travel nursing.

It seems that despite good references and work reviews, a complaint from someone on her first travel assignment was enough to get her contract cancelled. Furthermore, it soured her travel company against her, so much so, that after the initial conversation to find out what went wrong, her recruiter stopped returning her phone calls. Obviously not a pleasant situation, even if it was your 20th contract, but to have it happen on your first…not a very nice intro into the profession.

confused travel nurse after her contract is cancelledI have blogged before on what things you might consider doing if your contract should be cancelled, but most of that advice assumes that you have a relationship with your travel company. What if this is your first assignment with a company and they have no idea if the complaint is valid?

You must understand that any company that is reputable will want to protect their good name. This means not sending bad nurses out on assignments to represent their company. They will not send you on another assignment unless they are convinced you are delivering the care that they, and the contracting facility, expect.

I have been terminated from two contracts in my career and with both instances, my travel company wanted to hear my side of the story. Fortunately, I did have a longstanding relationship with my company (and many praises on other assignments) that allowed my company to dismiss these two instances where others felt I was not delivering the care they expected. Truth be told, it was never about my nursing on these terminations; someone in a position of power didn’t like me and that’s all it took to get me cancelled.

But let’s look back to our original situation. Here was a nurse that was fired from her first contract and it left her to wonder: Will any other travel company want to work with me? While her concern was valid, I informed her it might not be as bad at it may seem.

Most travel companies have been in business long enough that they have worked with a traveler who has had a contract cancelled. So, they understand the dynamic of such an event. One cancellation will not “blacklist” you from the industry; repeated cancellations might. However, in this situation, the nurse had prior references and work reviews that painted her as a good nurse.

You must understand that any company that is reputable will want to protect their good name. This means not sending bad nurses out on assignments to represent their company.

So I advised her to contact another travel company as I believed that someone would certainly give her another shot. And after all, I think there are one or two (hundred) other companies out there looking for travel nurses. As for the contract cancellation, and whether or not she should mention it to the next company, I told her she had a decision to make there. Yes, a new company may look unfavorably on a contract termination; however, as I said before, most companies know that contract terminations can occur for a ton of different reasons (and some have NOTHING to do with the quality and professionalism of the nurse).

Plus, if she were to omit the cancelled contract, she would once again be looked at as a “first-time” traveler, something hospitals are shying away from now that they can be selective. So technically, even though her contract was cancelled, a new travel company could still represent her as a traveler with experience (kind of depends of how the company would choose to handle it).

I told her that once she found a company to which she would like to apply, she should rely heavily on her past work experience and recommendations. If one person says you’re a lousy nurse, find five other people that know you to be an excellent nurse. Ask those people for a formal reference and submit them with your file to the travel company.

A complaint and/or a cancellation from a travel facility can sting a bit, but it shouldn’t erase all your past accomplishments and positive work reviews. Also remember that although not common, cancellations do occur. A prudent travel nurse always has a bit socked away for a rainy day. You should not be charged housing or any penalties if the facility is the one to cancel you, but the lost wages can put a bit of a strain on finances if you are not prepared.

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Posted in: Ask a Travel Nurse

About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

1 Comment on "Ask a Travel Nurse: What can I do if my first contract is cancelled?"

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  1. Peter says:

    Unfortunately, facilities have a ton of power when it comes to determining whether a travel nurse gets fired or not. Sometimes travelers are canceled for less than legitimate reasons, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. Fortunately though, if you have an understanding, professional recruiter, they will usually hear your side of things and fight to get you working again.

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