By October 14, 2009 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Should I take a travel nursing job without a contract?


A reader recently wrote to me with a situation that I have never encountered before. His question was regarding “at-will” work states. He stated that a travel company (one of the larger ones) that was located in an “at will” work state, told him that because of the company’s location, they did not use contracts. They simply stated that they, “expect the traveler to complete the 13 week assignment”. While I have NEVER heard of such a thing, it is not all that hard to believe considering some of the off-the-wall things I have encountered in this profession.

What exactly does it mean to be employed in an “at will” state? Keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but very simply, the “at-will doctrine” is a rule of contract law that is an individual state law (meaning it will vary from state to state). The basic premise is that an employee can quit at any time, for any reason, and the employer can also fire the employee at any time, and for any reason. As long as the reason is not illegal (skin color, sexual orientation, etc), the reason could range from anything semi-legitimate as having too many absences, to the absurd such as being 30 seconds late one day. In addition, the employer does not need to disclose to the employee the reason for the termination.

Once again, because this is a state law, it will vary. Some states will also have exemptions to the law, so it’s important to know under which state laws your travel contract will be enforced.

Regardless of the state in which you will be working, I would advise you to NEVER take an assignment where you are not provided a written contract spelling out your responsibilities and the obligations of your employer. A contract might also even provide language that makes it an exemption to “at will” practices. In my next post, we’ll look at some of the things that you should always have in a travel contract.

Whether this statement is accurate or a misunderstanding, my advice would remain the same: NEVER accept a travel assignment without a contract. 

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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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