By April 28, 2010 3 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Should I work at a facility on strike?


hospital on strikeAn experienced traveler recently emailed asking about working at a facility on strike. In my book I have a section that covers strike work pretty extensively, but wanted to offer a few general facts that might be helpful if you decide to pursue this type of assignment.

When you mention “strike work” to a travel nurse, they will often have very passionate feelings about it either one way or another. Those against strike work will argue that any nurse willing to cross a picket line (often labeled “a scab”), is doing a disservice to their fellow professionals. Striking nurses are often attempting to better the working conditions in their hospital. Anyone that allows the hospital to keep operating under these conditions is not looked upon favorably.

While no one is exactly “pro-strike”, there are nurses that will argue their point for working in a facility where the staff is on strike. The most often heard argument is, “who will care for the patients when the staff is on strike”. Although I myself would not hesitate to work a strike, this argument is one that I would have a hard time making with a straight face. I’m not saying that there are not possibly people who truly believe this, but I would say that most of us are not that altruistic. The honest reason most consider working a strike, is for the money.

A nurse working a strike can earn, on average, anywhere from $3000-$5000 a week. Occasionally, a hard hit hospital could pay double that amount. When you start looking at those types of numbers, it is not hard to see why many nurses are enticed by this type of work.

While the numbers look great, you must remember that this is often based on 60 hours or more a week. Many times, you will contract to work for a two week period and might end up working every single day. The staff with whom you are working will most likely be other travelers who are not familiar with the facility or the unit. If you work in a specialized unit such as ER or ICU, the normal stressors of that environment will only be compounded by the tension due to the strike. While it can be lucrative work, it is not easy work.

Next week we’ll take a look at the process of contracting with a facility on strike.

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.

3 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Should I work at a facility on strike?"

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  1. Jim asci


    I’m sure you’ve heard this many times but just a reminder as a scab your the absolute bottom of the barrel. Congrats you sound like your the very best of the worst.

  2. David says:

    Hello Jim. You sound as if you may have never had a dialog with a nurse working at a facility on strike. As I have, I will tell you that many hold no malice toward the nurses coming in and making top dollar to staff a facility that still needs to care for people requiring medical care.

    Some have gone so far as to say that the “scab”, as you label them, is necessary to make the hospital realize the value of the nurses they employ.

    Rarely does a strike last for an extended period of time (thus costing anyone their job) and it is often nothing more than a tool for the unions to secure a better contract.

    On this forum, education, and not judgement, is the preferred information.

    To continue in that vein, I will let the readers know that Jim correctly abbreviated “you have” as “you’ve”, but incorrectly used “your” (as in “your the absolute bottom” and “your the very best..”), as it should have been “you’re” as to abbreviate the two words, “you are”.

    Thank you for your comments Jim, but I’m not sure you’re familiar with all the facts concerning this topic.


  3. Chris Carter



    David thank for the information. It is very insightful and helpful. I agree with you on travelers as a tool for the union on strike. I have been traveling for about a year and half. I have enjoyed it and feel I have become a better nurse because of it. However, I couldn’t imagine being in a facility full of strictly travel nurses. I have been in situations where the have been more travelers than regular staff. It usually runs smoothly with some bumps. I may possibly being a situation where I am a “scab”!as Jim terms it. As I see it someone has to be there and the nurses on strike do as well. They are doing what they think they need to do for their families and livelihoods. I am doing the same. When a hospital system has to deal with a crisis as a nurse walkout, I am sure they will greatly appreciate what they have. Not to say they don’t in the first place. Bottom line is they are running a business as they think it should be run and the workers are wanting fair treatment. Because essentially healthcare is more than a business. It’s about people. That’s why they go through negotiations to come up with what both parties deem to be fair. I, as a traveler, am the person that comes with my experience and skills to help out to the best of my ability to help. I know my role and certainly mean no harm. Thanks again David!

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