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By November 3, 2010 5 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 underst and 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 longst and ing 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 underst and 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.

[pullquote]You must underst and 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.[/pullquote]

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 h and le 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.

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.

5 Comments 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.

  2. lynne beck


    I am a first time travel nurse, and my first assignment was cancelled after two weeks. It was not for good cause, I was told I documented homebound when the patient was not homebound, and that I didnt count the bedtadine pads for a wound care patient. I work as a homecare nurse. I wasnt given knowledge of what I did wrong until after I was terminated. I was told I was not following the care plan. I have leased a house through the travel agency for 3 months. I accepted a lower wage by $500 less a week to have the company pay for the housing. The agency wants me to pay for the remaining $4500 left on the lease. My question is If I am expected to pay for the lease shouldnt I be able to stay here? If I wasnt fired for good cause can the agency kick me out in 24hours? Also I did talk to the travel agency and they told me they would find another position for me nearby, but initially they wanted me to leave the house within 24hr. I dont trust that they are actually trying to get me another position. I have been actively applying to every home care agency in the area and I do have a phone interview on monday. The agency never told me I was fired or let go. Since I am paying for the whole lease either now or through monthly payments set up by the agency shouldnt I be able to live in the house?

  3. David says:

    Hey Lynne. Sorry so long on my response; I have been on vacation for a few weeks.

    Your situation really depends on the legal language in the lease and also in your travel contract or service agreement with the travel company. You mentioned your company paying for the housing, which in most cases means the company takes care of all the arrangements in regard to that aspect of your assignment.

    In the case of a contract cancellation, your contract with the travel company should spell out the details of your obligation. But, if a company is requiring you to pay for a lease on living accommodations, then I would tend to think that you are entitled to remain in your housing, under that lease. While I am not an attorney and therefore cannot render legal advice, I can’t imagine a company could require you to pay for housing, and then be entitled to ask you to vacate that housing.

    If you are made to pay for housing, and then find other work, I would ask the company to draw up a contract that then allows you to stay under the lease, or release the lease to you personally. It does not sound legally correct that they could make you pay for a lease, make you vacate, and then potentially have another travel nurse live there (while likely also charging them for company provided housing). Sounds like a double-dip scenario (which are not usually legally sound).

    Have a conversation with your company and see exactly what they expect and consider a few hundred dollars to an attorney to counsel you on the legality of the situation.

    I hope this helps and I’m sorry you are in this situation.


  4. Sam Wood


    Hi David
    Thanks for writing this blog – I have been seeking anyone who has gone through a similar situation that I am going through. I am halfway in to my first travel assignment and the whole thing has been a nightmare.

    I got a written complaint about me which has never happened before and it has taken me a while to come to terms with it. The complaint was made by a nurse on a unit that I had to float to – a maternity/wellborn nusery unit – which I had never been before. She wrote that I had asked too many questions and assessment questions that she feels like I should have known. I’m a nurse that needs to have things clear before I do them. Also, i heard from many other peds nurses that usually we are left alone in the nursery.. so i wanted to ask all the questions I could while I had someone in there with me. Then after, a PA also complained that I was asking questions that PAs don’t know. On the peds floor i’m with only one other nurse and a PA.. and if the nurse is busy, I would like to ask a question about a med you ordered or a chest tube that you are overseeing on a patient. So when she didn’t know the answer to these questions she complained that I should have known these answers or asked a nurse instead of her.

    I know I’m ranting, but this whole experience has been a complete nightmare and I feel like I have to defend myself at these unwarranted complaints. And I have tried to explain myself to my manager, but I just found out she called the clinical manager at my agency and now i’m not sure if she is going to cancel my contract. I am so so sad and discouraged. I don’t think I want to do travel nursing anymore. How did you keep doing it after you were terminated twice? I talked to the traveler who was here before me and she said she had the same issues I had. I also talked to another traveler in the maternity unit who tells me she is also being treated poorly. It’s a shame that my first assignment had to be at a hospital that Is not nice to travelers.

    I feel so horrible because I love my recruiter and I don’t want her to have to deal with any repercussions if my manager does in fact cancel my contract. I don’t even know what should would have to deal with. Also I don’t know what to do after this contact because I know I won’t get a positive recommendation. This whole experience has been horrible and I feel like I made a huge mistake going into travel nursing. I know this is a lot of information and doesn’t concern you, I just have no one else to talk to about this.

  5. David says:

    Hey Sam. You may have to forgive the winded reply, by the writer in me likes to write on a daily basis. I make it a habit to get in at least a few pages a day. Today, this will be my few pages 🙂

    Your situation reminds me of a conversation I had to have with my six year old daughter just a few weeks ago. She was being teased by some boys at school and was really depressed. She was surprised to learn that even in adult life, we all have to deal with bullies and haters. She then of course went on to inquire as to how she was supposed to deal with these types of people.

    I asked her what the boys had said. She told me they called her ugly and fat. My daughter is the tallest girl in her grade and very active; the claim of being fat was instantly dismissed from her mind. The second took a bit more doing.

    Even though I told her she was the most beautiful person to me, I could see in her eyes she still had a sense of “you’re my daddy; you have to say that”.

    Later, we were at an outdoor mall attending a live music event. She danced around a little, liked the music (despite being mostly oldies) and overall, had a great time. When we were leaving, an elderly woman pulled me aside as we walked back through the people and told me I was a lucky man to have such a beautiful daughter. I smiled and thanked her and made my way to the car with my daughter.

    “Did you see that woman?” I asked. “What woman?”, my daughter replied.

    I told her about the woman, who she had never met, who I had never met, who just made a point of pulling me aside just to tell me how beautiful she was. My daughter’s face beamed with a smile.

    We went on to discuss just how crazy the things were, that the boys had said. We also went on to discuss how petty and unhappy some people can be and how, if we’re not careful, we could get sucked into their unhappy state of being. I then imparted those magical words on her:

    “Evan, if people start saying bad things to you, they are just trying to pile their crap on you. That’s their crap and they can keep it. There are two magical words that can protect you from letting those bad feelings get inside you.”

    I then gave her permission to say two words that she certainly never gets to use in my house. But I also emphasized those two words were to be said silently in her head (I don’t need any calls from the school about the new adult words her daddy lets her use).

    Hopefully, the above was not just a pleasant little tangent that gave me an excuse to wax on about my daughter.

    Essentially, you met those same bullies, that made you feel like crap, and let what amounts to “their shit”, affect you. Whether encountered on the playground in first grade, or in a unit of adult professionals, you WILL find haters and those individuals that are very willing to spread their unhappiness.

    What was your crime? You asked too many questions?? Hopefully, your initial response was to invoke those two clever words I taught my daughter (again, silently to yourself). But you should have instantly recognized a nurse, that for whatever reason, was unwilling to answer some questions to insure the safety of the patients in their unit, as someone to be instantly discounted.

    I understand the need for secondary validation; it goes with the territory. We always want to be sure we are delivering safe patient care and are adhering to practice norms. But you have two other nurses who have experienced similar issues and even from an outside perspective, admonishing a nurse for asking questions, in my opinion, is unsafe in itself. Those people’s actions will get back to the unit and it will become known as a unit where questions are unwelcome. Place a new nurse in that environment, who knows better than to ask questions….recipe for disaster. I am honestly upset at the unit manager for encouraging behavior that puts the patients in her unit at risk.

    After traveling for the years that I have, and encountering ALL sorts of healthcare professionals, I have often invoked the two magical words (my problem tends to be the times when it’s not said so silently in my head). It has enabled me to see the lunacy in our profession. Prime example, a manager escalating an issue with a nurse asking questions to insure the safe delivery of care, on an unfamiliar unit, which was a maternity/wellborn unit no less. These are the type of people that need drummed out of the profession. But again, the first step is recognizing the insanity of the situation and knowing that you are not the person who should be faulted for simply trying to insure safe patient care.

    The next step should always be to call your recruiter. This should be the person who is your champion in the company. This is the person who knows you best, the person that will listen to your side of things, and the person who will hopefully go to bat for you within the company.

    If the hospital is looking to cancel your contract, likely nothing can be done. Put it behind you and go on to somewhere you are appreciated. If your company can see that nothing you did was wrong, they’ll be happy to find you another assignment. Additionally, if you express the desire to get right back on the horse, it could mitigate any fees or penalties the company might want to impose for the lost contract (all of this depends on the terms of your contract).

    On both occasions where my contract was terminated, the hospital could not show sufficient cause. I also had a great recruiter who saw the insanity of both situations. In the first instance, I was in the L.A. area and my recruiter had me in hospital orientation at a different hospital the very next week. I missed a week of work and I think the company charged me something like $50 to stay in the company provided housing. So loyalty to a specific company and letting them know you’re willing to get right back out there, can go a long way.

    Don’t worry about repercussions to your recruiter. Call her and explain your side of things. If she has been in travel for more than a minute, she’s had to deal with a canceled contract.

    Do express to her the difficulty other nurses have shared with you. You can also ask if the facility in question has a habit of cancellations. This might start to show them a pattern and discourage your travel company from working with them in the future.

    In two decades of travel, I can honestly say that the good experiences far outnumber the bad. However, when you get a bad one right out of the gate, it does make you question whether it is worth it. But trust me, it is.

    Treat this as a learning experience and go into your next assignment with eyes open wider. I can promise that you will encounter more petty nurses on the road. But once you recognize them, it’s usually easy to minimize their reign of terror 🙂

    If your present company is not supportive, I have other recruiters that will be happy to work with you to find you a great travel destination. See if you can find a trusted colleague in the unit who would give you a good recommendation for your next assignment. If not, just use the ones you used to start with your present company.

    Hang in there and realize that these assignments do occur. It’s not the norm (by far), but at least it’s only 13 weeks 🙂

    Let me know how things go. You can email me directly at


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