Ask a Travel Nurse: What is it like working at a hospital on strike?

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travel nurse working at a hospital on strikeLast week we looked at the process involved with taking an assignment at a facility during a strike. This week we’ll conclude with a look at how things operate during an assignment at a striking facility.

When you are working a strike, you should anticipate working just about every day. Occasionally, if you make it known that you are willing to work every day of the week, the company will guarantee a specific number of hours (I believe the last strike action I was notified of guaranteed at least 60 hours each week if I was willing to work all week). You can always request a day or two off, but most people who work strikes are there simply to work as much as they can. Most strike contracts ask for an initial commitment of a few weeks (it varies). After that, you can decide if you would like to stay and work more (should the strike continue), or just take the money and run. All of this depends on you and how taxing the assignment might be.

In my last post, I told you how your travel company should arrange for your transportation to your assignment location by arranging your flight and also taking care of the cost of that flight. In addition, the travel company should also be responsible for all your transportation to and from the facility during your assignment. Although this is usually standard operating practice during strike work, you should always verify this with your company prior to accepting the assignment.

One reason that your travel company will supply your transportation is to ensure your safety. When a facility is on strike, you might very well encounter people picketing. While crossing a picket line should be nothing like the images Hollywood tends to portray, you could still be dealing with people with heightened emotions. The best way to combat this is to simply avoid the people on strike. The hospital usually takes care of this by providing a designated entrance, to which your company should provide you a shuttle, which avoids any staff that might be picketing. Again, this is something you will want to verify with your travel company.

Often, you will arrive a day or two before the strike to attend a general hospital orientation. This will probably be a VERY condensed version of what you would normally receive. It will probably just be a “crash-course” in the way the hospital operates. It is also possible that on your first day you will report directly to the floor and begin working. Remember, this is a facility in crisis and they need everyone to get up speed quickly.

Your work environment may not be too much different than you are used to; or, it could be total chaos. Either way, you are responsible for safely caring for your patient. You need to have excellent skill in doing whatever needs to be done to give the best possible care to your patient. Every situation will be different and try not to sweat the little things. You might need to decide what things are a priority (like transfusing a unit of packed cells) versus things that can be overlooked (like making sure your patient gets a bath during your shift). While I am trying to paint a “worst-case scenario”, more than likely, this assignment will seem no different from any other.

Try to utilize the resources you have and inspire everyone to work together. You will be in the same boat as everyone else, but everyone reacts differently to stress. Try to lead those around you into working together to accomplish the goals of each shift (deliver the best patient care possible).

In case you were interested in the type of money we are talking about, I know of two actions currently in progress. Both pay $55 an hour for base and $82.50 for OT. If you only worked a 60 hour week, that would be $3850/week. However, if you accepted a two week contract at this rate, and worked every single day, then you would earn $11,660 for two weeks of work.

Money aside, you must realize that this can be difficult work. No two strike assignments will be the same, so be prepared for anything. If you’d like to read more about a day in the life of a strike nurse, you can check out the following link to read one nurse’s journal from an assignment at a striking facility.

5 for $500 Bonus

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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