My Travel Nurse Contract was Cancelled, Now What?

My Travel Nurse Contract was Cancelled, Now What?


My contract was cancelled!! Wow, what do I do now? What are my legal safeguards?

 contract was cancelledThere are a multitude of reasons that a contract can/will be cancelled. This is a scenario that you must prepare for as a Travel Nurse. It happens.  Most agencies have an ‘at will’ employment clause.  If you don’t know what this means, I suggest that you do some research.  In a nut-shell, it means that the contract can be cancelled at any time for any reason with no recompenses on the Travel Nurse side.

The unfortunate part of a contract cancellation is that the hospital will many times, give a bogus reason for firing you: a missed med, an insignificant charting error, etc.  It’s usually a ‘clinical’ related reason given.  Realistically though, you probably got cancelled for reasons other than your nursing skills and performance. Don’t let this bring you down.  Your reputation is not going to be slaughtered by this and you will find another travel position.  It’s the nature of the business.

Unfair? YES.   Realistic? Unfortunately, YES.
It’s not fair, but its the ugly side of travel nursing.  If your contract is cancelled you will have two choices in how to handle it.

#1 Let it go and try to get immediate placement with your agency somewhere else.

This is the option that I most recommend.  Talk to your agency and have them find you something else.  Most of the time, our contracts are cancelled for reasons beyond our control (regardless of the reason the hospital gave).  The administration may have decided too late that you were too expensive to keep and was just looking for any reason to fire you, the hospital may have hired enough core staff and now they don’t need a traveler.

Unless the cancellation reason was a life-threatening issue or something that will be followed up with the Board of Nursing (drug abuse is a good example of this), a good Staffing Agency understands that this happens from time to time and will work with you to find another suitable contract quickly.

#2 Take it to court.

It’s important to understand first that you are an employee of the agency, not the hospital.  Your agency is not going to support you in your lawsuit.  The agency’s customer is the hospital, not you.  I don’t personally recommend that you take these issues to court. There is an exception to this; if you are reported to the Board of Nursing for a violation that you feel is unfounded.  If this is the case, you will first have to clear yourself through the Board and then you could pursue a lawsuit with the Agency/Hospital.

*Disclaimer: I do not give legal advice and recommend that you consult a legal professional for these issues.

What expenses will I be responsible for now?
If your contract has been cancelled, the first thing that you need to do is consult your contract.  What does the contract say regarding cancellations? There may be fees incurred for housing, travel, etc. Did the hospital give a ’cause’ for termination? If you don’t know, find out from your Travel Agency before moving forward.

Your responsibility for any expenses will depend on your company and your contract. Some travel companies have it written into their contract that the traveler could be responsible for “fees or expenses” when the contract is canceled “with cause”, but some offer no protection and can leave the traveler on the line for expenses even if the facility does not show cause.

The possibility of a Contract cancellation should emphasize the  importance of reading the entire contract and understanding what can happen in the instance of cancellation. If you are taking an assignment thousands of miles from home and the contract states that you will be charged housing and other fees in any event of a cancellation (where no cause is needed), perhaps you should either decline the contract or negotiate with the company on this point.

What can I do ahead of time to ‘lessen’ the impact of a cancelled contract?

1.  Maintain a Savings – This is something you should consider before ever starting an assignment. Do not put yourself in the position where a week or two without pay could totally cripple you financially. Contracts do get canceled and if you are not prepared financially, it can have serious consequences.

2.  Make sure you are with a company you can trust – Having a company that knows your reputation and is easy to contact can be a life-saver in a contract cancellation. Is your recruiter quick to respond and fix the ‘little issues’? Easy to reach during ‘off-hours’?  These are important factors that will assist you in a smooth transition if you should experience a contract cancellation.

3.  Work with More than one Company – I’ve recommended this before and will re-iterate it here. Have your profile on file with several companies.  Should you need a ‘quick’ response due to a cancelled contract, not having to go through the application process with make things move much smoother.

4. References – When it comes to contract cancellations with reasons of clinical insufficiencies, it’s important to have previous good references in order to keep your reputation in tact.  I was actually ‘fired’ from a contract once just days after obtaining a glowing reference from my charge nurse.  Showing this to my staffing agency proved to them that the reasons for termination were just bogus and they were willing to work with me to find me another contract quickly.

5. Use your support Network – I can’t emphasize this enough. No matter what the reason for a contract cancellation, it’s going to leave you with a myriad of feelings. Frustration, defeat, incompetence, etc.  NOW is the time to reach out to your support system.  If this is family, friends, travel nursing groups, etc. Reach out and share the experience and use your support network to help you get through this difficult time.


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  1. I have a question/scenario regarding contract cancellation…
    This past summer I decided to give travel nursing a try. I took an assignment but didn’t have the greatest experience. I worked 4 weeks of nights and everything went well. Then I was switched to days and floated basically every day for 6 weeks. As a new traveller I’m sure you can imagine this wasn’t what I expected and I started resenting my job. I ended up having to speak with the nurse manager because she threatened to end my contract due to attitude, but when I explained to her I was burnt out from floating and had some family issues back home, she was understanding but said she didn’t want anymore complaints. I then went back to nights and back to floating for the most part. I received a phone call on a Monday from my company after working thurs, fri, sat night telling me I was not to return to work and that my contract had been cancelled (about 10 days early)due to a family complaint on my last night there. I racked my brain trying to think of who could have complained seeing as how I only had 2 patients. What was unfair was they gave me a pt who’s family needed a lot of teaching in an area I’m unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, which I communicated to the charge nurse and was given support for that from her and other nurses. This is the only family I could think of who may have complained on my last night. There was another mom who’s daughter was very sick who I didn’t get to provide a lot of emotional support to because I was so busy trying to keep her alive (literally) before she was transferred to a higher level of care on the previous night but again there is no way of me knowing who complained. They wouldn’t tell me. I had already decided by this point that travel nursing just wasn’t for me and had a permanent job lined up. My question is….will having this contract cancelled affect my employment record? Like my ability to obtain future permanent jobs? When I asked the clinical liaison at the company she said if they called all they could legally tell her were my dates of employment. And by the way, I still get phone calls from the travel company about assignments. Thanks for any feedback you can provide.

  2. Question: My contract and all the other travel nurses contracts were just cancelled due to budget cuts at the hospital we were at. Is there repercussions against the hospital. The hospital cancelled our contracts midway through and now I’m out around $11,000 and scrambling for a new job. Which at this time there are none in Dallas. Is there anything I can do to get some of the lost money back? There is nothing in my contract about the hospital canceling.

  3. So what I don’t understand is if you cancel a contract you are responsible for certain fees for housing and such, and now if the hospitals cancel you then you are still responsible. This doesn’t make any sense. At what point is the hospital or travel company responsible. So we only sign a contract to make us liable?

    • I agree, it isn’t ‘fair’ but unfortunately, this is the reality of the situation. There are some recourses for this. members have access to an attorney for litigation and has a formal complaint system in place. I would recommend reaching out to one of these entities for suggestions on recourse. See moreon how to file a complaint with NATHO.