As you gain experience you will learn the ins and outs of your travel nursing schedule. The reason this is important is that your travel nursing schedule dictates when you can plan activities outside of work. Many times the nurse manager will have your first couple of weeks of your schedule done for you at your orientation.
Start Dates are Non-negotiable
One of the pros of being a travel nurse is the flexibility. However, start dates for an assignment are non-negotiable, once you sign a contract. Most hospitals run orientations on a biweekly basis and you need to be there for orientation. In order to prepare for your arrival, both the nurse manager and the human resources department must prepare everything you will need. That is why it is essential that you arrive on or before your start date. Be aware some hospitals will even charge you a fee for changing or canceling your start date.
Make a Request About Your Travel Nursing Schedule
The main purpose of your job, as a traveling nurse is to be available and flexible. That is essentially why you’ve been hired, to fill a particular need within the hospital’s staff. That being said, most hospitals are pretty good about scheduling their traveling nurses fairly. You shouldn’t be scheduled several days in a row or every weekend. Also, most nurse managers are willing to be flexible on their end as well, so if you really don’t like working 3 to 4 days in a row, make a request accordingly.
If you have specific dates, for example, a wedding or an anniversary that you really want to be off for, you should have those dates included in your contract. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that you will be scheduled off on those days. The other option should you get scheduled on a day that really isn’t good for you is switching a shift with other hospital staff.
Be Prepared for Canceled Shifts
Although most contracts come with a minimum number of hours that you must be scheduled there will be times when the hospital is slow, so be prepared for canceled shifts.Within your contract there will be a set amount of shifts that the hospital can cancel, usually once per pay period, without being penalized, for example having to pay you even if they call you off. You need to include the possibility of losing the income of a shift or two during your assignment.
Also, be aware that if you do not complete the minimum number of hours due to illness or other reason you may be required to pay some of your meal reimbursement or housing, out-of-pocket. Along the same lines, most companies do not offer sick pay or vacation time. That means you need to be prepared in the event that you get sick and need to take a few days off. One of the recommendations is purchasing accident insurance to help with any bills if you ever get hurt, outside of the job.
Setting Up Your Next Assignment
In order to ensure that you get back to back assignments, so there is no lapse between paychecks, you need to start looking for your next assignment at least one month before your current assignment ends. One of the purposes of setting up your next assignment in advance is to be sure that you have the proper education and licensure needed for that assignment. Otherwise, you could end up scrambling for an assignment or not have one for several weeks.
You will also want to find out from your travel nursing agency the following three as of information: when the start date is, whether it’s a night or day shift position and how long each shift will be, 12 hours or 10 hours. Understanding those three pieces of information that is why you are being hired and you need to be sure you will be able to fulfill the requirements.
Travel nursing assignments offer a degree of flexibility, which is one reason some people become traveling nurses. However, travel nursing schedules are fairly set because you are fulfilling a need the hospital has, at that time. So, be prepared to be flexible and adaptable throughout your travel nursing assignments.