Understanding Your Travel RN Schedule

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Many travelers find the most exciting thing about starting a new travel assignment is getting your schedule and planning your activities. It is not uncommon for the nurse manager on your floor to have your schedule done for your first few weeks by the time you hit hospital orientation; after all, you are there to fill a need. In fact, you can often start working on the schedule over the phone once they make an offer!

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want
Most people are generally good about scheduling travelers fairly; meaning not every weekend or spreading your days out (especially on night shift) but this doesn’t happen all of the time. It is important to keep in mind that as a travel nurse your primary role is to help this specific hospital with staffing and to be flexible. If you know you need to have a particular day or weekend off, then it is best to have it written into your contract prior to your start date (we always like to include these dates with your submission and encourage you to discuss during the interview as well). You can also trade shifts if necessary with the regular hospital staff if you need time off.

Start dates are (almost always) set in stone
Travel nursing is flexible in many different aspects, however, assignment start dates and number of hours worked are not typically one of them. Assignment start dates are based on that specific hospital’s orientation dates, which are usually based on a schedule est at the beginning of the year. The human resources department and your nurse manager have to prepare for your arrival by scheduling preceptors and so on, so it is vital that you stick to your intended start date (or you could lose your offer). Some facilities will let you attend the next orientation, but others will make you a DNR to their health system.

Finding the right assignment takes time
The search for a new travel assignment usually begins approximately 1 month before your current contract ends. Some hospitals plan out for 2 months ahead of time, and others are looking for ASAP starts (as soon as 1 or 2 weeks). The best plan is to get all your paperwork together ahead of time so you can be ready for whatever time frame works best for you!

Budget for the unexpected
As with any healthcare setting, there will be times when your facility is slow and may need to cancel one of your shifts. The number of shifts that you are allowed to be cancelled are written in your contract (some hospitals guarantee no hours while others allow up to 1 hospital cancel per pay period). You can cancel, or switch shifts as needed, but are only paid for hours worked. And travel stipends can be pro-rated based on cancellations. There is no sick pay or vacation pay, so budget accordingly. If there is a specific city (or hospital) that you want to travel to but the start date is many weeks after your current assignment ends, it is possible to extend for a few weeks if your hospital allows it so you don’t go unpaid for such an extended period of time. Lastly, hospital orientation is paid for but may leave you short a few hours, so make sure you budget appropriately in between assignments.

Knowing what is expected of you is the key to success
Being flexible and adapting to a constantly changing environment is what being a travel nurse is all about. Companies choose to hire travelers because they know they can count on a travel nurse to get the job done on short notice and a small amount of preparation. Understanding what is expected of you and coming to your travel assignment prepared mentally, emotionally, physically and financially sound are all important aspects of being an experienced and well-traveled travel nurse.

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