By March 3, 2010 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: How can I have travel nursing foresight?

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travel nursing questionsMost have heard the expression that hindsight is 20/20. Well I would like to contend that occasionally foresight can be just as clear.

While none of us have a crystal ball with which we can see into the future, we can all learn from our past experiences, or even those of our fellow travelers. With that knowledge, we can then take proactive measures to prevent problems from occurring while on a travel nursing assignment.

I have been on assignment at my current hospital long enough that I occasionally precept the new grads that are hired into the unit. One game I challenge them with is called, “What if?”, where I ask them what they would do in a certain situation were it to occur. By thinking about these two simple words, prior to taking an assignment, you would be surprised how much foresight can work toward preventing problems during your contract.

For example, a traveler might ask, “What if I am called off and do not receive my scheduled hours?”  The time to contemplate this is prior to signing your contract, not after you have been called off three times in a pay period.

Another question might be, “What if I am constantly made to float? (and that was not what I thought this assignment would be). Again, something to consider before you sign your contract and not a month into your assignment when you never seem to work in the same unit twice.

Fortunately, most every situation you can think of can be addressed in one single place, your travel contract. As a traveler, it is imperative that you know what your travel contract says regarding a multitude of matters. A travel contract should cover everything from your salary, to your health benefits, to your responsibilities while on assignment. It’s no coincidence that these things can be four to five pages or more in length.

If there is anything that is important to you regarding your assignment (guaranteed hours, stipulation regarding floating, how many weekend shifts you will work, etc.), make sure it is in your contract.

There are literally hundreds of travel companies, and I’ll bet no two of them have the same wording in their contracts, so it is imperative that you know everything contained in your specific contract. I constantly receive emails from people wanting to know what they should do in a certain situation. Many times, my first question will be, “What does your contract say?”

The more assignments you complete, the more savvy you will become in regard to what is put into your contract. Work one assignment where they schedule you every weekend and on your next assignment I’ll bet that “every other weekend” is clearly written into your contract.

While you are on assignment, talk to other travelers to see what issues they have encountered on the road. You can also join an online travel nursing forum and see what situations others have encountered while on assignment. After you hear some of the experiences of other travelers, ask yourself, “What if?” (that happened to me). Then go back and see if that situation would even be addressed by your current contract. If not, maybe it is something you will think about before you accept your next assignment.

While none of us can predict the future, with the experience you gain on the road, and maybe some insight from fellow travelers, you can begin to develop the foresight that will help you keep your assignment difficulties to a minimum.

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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.

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