Ask a Travel Nurse Question:
What should I do about a termination dispute with my Travel Nursing company?
I have been a NICU nurse for 35 years and recently started an assignment in Texas. While on assignment I was asked to work in PICU, a specialty I do not feel qualified for. When I voiced this to the manager she sent me to the director who told me I would go wherever told and that was my role as a Traveler. I said it was up to her, but that I did not have PALS and would not want to ever put a child/young adult in danger due to my incompetence in the area. She promptly told me to leave.
Now, the agency says I owe them money because I quit. But, I did not quit, I was asked to leave. Usually traveling has been quite smooth for me and this has never happened to me before! What should I do?
Thanks for your help!
Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:
My first question whenever something of this nature arises is, “What does your contract say?”
In many instances, contracts do spell out what the Traveler may be responsible for in the event of a termination or cancellation (by any party), but it usually does go the extra length in spelling out what happens in the event of a Traveler cancellation. I do realize that you state this was NOT a cancellation brought on by you, but I don’t feel as if I have all the details here.
When you were told to “go,” what happened after that? Did you speak with your company to get a clarification if she was sending you home for the shift or did she specifically say your contract was being terminated? If she did say your contract was terminated, why does your company think you quit?
Regardless of all the details surrounding the incident, it sounds as if the communication was lacking between the hospital and your travel company, or just the individuals involved in the process. What you do need to clarify with someone is who said what to who and if they (or you) have any documentation regarding what happened. In the end, it really comes down to the contract and what it may say about monies owed if the assignment is not completed.
Often, with cancellations, the company will withhold monies from the last paycheck to cover these expenses. The legality of this may be somewhat questionable as I believe it is a federal law that any time worked, must be compensated. However, if the travel company is processing your payroll, they pretty much have first access to deduct monies, whether legally allowed or not. In such an instance, to obtain what may rightfully be yours (as far as compensation), you would have to seek legal representation and go after your travel company (likely, not worth the time or money spent on legal fees).
By the same token, if they do not deduct monies from your last paycheck, then they would have to come after you for any money owed to them. As I am not an attorney, I cannot offer legal advice on this, but would venture to say that not many companies are going to pursue legal recourse for a few thousand dollars (especially if the case is disputable in regard to the circumstances surrounding the ending of the contract).
Now I will say that if it clearly states in your contract that if your contract is terminated for ANY reason, you owe “X” amount of money back to the company (or clearly agree to any fees or penalties), then it could make it easier for the travel company to seek legal recourse.
It really comes down to what your contract states, the provable facts surrounding the termination of the contract, and the state laws governing the contract. Not being an attorney and not knowing ALL the facts surrounding the situation, it’s very hard to offer any advice other than what I may have done in the situation. Please do not interpret this as me stating you were in the wrong.
First, whenever someone tells me on an assignment that I will be floating to a certain unit, I find out what is expected of me. I have been floated to units before where I would certainly not have been qualified to take a patient assignment, but when questioned about my responsibilities, was told that I would be helping in a certain capacity in which I felt comfortable with the float. If I later found out that I was going to be thrown into something for which I was not qualified, I too would refuse any assignment that put a patient, or my license, at risk.
Second, there are certain things you can do if the float falls somewhere in the “gray” area. You can start by informing your charge nurse that you are uncomfortable with the float and then work your way up to the nursing supervisor. If they still ask you to float, tell them that you will accept the float, but that you will need to write an incident report on the event so that you can document that you voiced your concern and were still made to float.
Often, when they realize that they will become accountable, should anything bad happen, they will acquiesce. However, if they do not, then you, and only you, are the protector of your nursing license. Paying a few thousand dollars over a terminated contract pales in comparison to injuring a patient or losing your license.
I’m sorry I could not answer your question more directly; it is simply a matter of contract law at this point. You will also need to see how far the company is willing to pursue this. If they continue to harass you, it may be worth it to spend a few hundred dollars to get a lawyer involved. This in itself may stop any legal recourse they may be contemplating.
I do hope this helps and please, if you are able to spare the time, come back and leave comments on this post giving the readers an update to what happened in your situation.