In the travel nursing industry, an unspoken rule is that you just can’t miss any of your shifts. So what do you do if you’re sick as a dog and don’t want to end up in the doghouse at work?
Unforeseen circumstances like illness are difficult (and impossible) to avoid, especially for healthcare professionals who are exposed to contagious patients every day. However, in travel nursing it’s far different to take a sick day than for permanent staff. Permanent nurses can easily find a colleague to work in their place, but travel nurses don’t really have that same luxury. After all, considering a travel nurse’s role is to sometimes fill in for another person who had to go on medical leave for a period of time, sick days can get a little complicated.
Ask about sick days BEFORE it happens.
Before you sign your contract for your travel nursing assignment, among the plethora of other questions you definitely have to ask, you must ask about the protocol for missed shifts in the event of an illness or emergency. You need to know who to contact if you do have to miss a day of work while on your travel nurse job.
- Find out if you need to contact the hospital or your agency—-or both. This varies depending on which facility you’re working in and which agency you’re working with.
- Tip: Usually, you should contact the hospital you’re working in the very moment you know you have to miss your shift. However, certain agencies enforce policies where you must contact them first.
- Find out what possible ramifications there are for if you have an unexpected missed shift.
Sometimes you can’t afford to get sick:
There’s no paid days off for a travel nurse.
Travel nurse benefits like housing and travel stipends are all allotted based on a certain number of contracted hours. Agencies get the money for those things from the hospital based on the hours worked so if their contractually obligated nurses don’t work them, the agencies don’t get paid. The ramifications for this usually come down on the nurse then. Again, these will vary depending on which agency your assignment is with, but usually you could expect to pay a penalty that would cover the costs that were accumulated due to those missed hours. However, in some instances travel nurses can simply make up the hours by working more that week.
If a travel nurse has to take off a couple days, that’s usually fine. If they have to take off a week or something, then that’s a different story. Most likely instances like that will end with a cancelled contract and a very devastated RN. When this happens, it might take a while to get cleared for future assignments.
Missing shifts as a travel nurse can affect your bonuses as well. To get most bonuses in travel nursing, there’s a certain number of hours that must be worked during that contract. Even one hour missed could totally blow it!
Your attendance record is at stake.
Travel nurse assignments are usually only about 3 months so if you get struck with the flu and take off 3 days or so, you risk jeopardizing your attendance record. It could be the only 3 days you have missed in 5 years, but in the eyes of the hospital you appear to be unreliable because you are only a temporary employee. If you do happen to get a bad attendance record at a facility, your reference from the hospital won’t be very good. It’s not fair, but that’s just how it goes.
Although it’s not an ideal scenario to have to take a day off due to illness, it’s not the end of the world. Nurses are people, too, and everyone gets sick every now and then. Your agency will understand and if you can make up the hours it will have no effect on anything. The worst thing you could do is to go into your shift with a contagious illness that could end up spreading to staff or patients!