Breaking up with the Contract: Tips for Travel Nurses

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By The Gypsy Nurse

August 4, 2020



Breaking up with the Contract

Breaking up can be hard to do

As a travel nurse, you need to pay close attention to your contracts and agreements. The employer is making a promise to furnish you with work and wages and in return, you promise to serve the patients in need.

Although not every situation is ideal, the vast majority of hospitals and agencies are committed to providing the best care to their patients. This means proper staffing and planning for the necessary resources. While healthcare needs are not always predictable, a genuine effort is made to ensure nurses are available to care for the patients when and how the care is required.


If you are considering breaking your contract or agreement, please keep in mind the ripple effect it might have on patient care. Avoid reasons that revolve around a lack of planning, foresight, or commitment. There are certain circumstances that can’t be avoided, are unexpected, or entail and emergency, and for those, it may be very necessary to walk away from a contract. Some quite justified examples are jury duty, military duty, injury or illness, or family care needs.

Also, if you feel your license may be in jeopardy in your current placement, start by calling a clinical liaison from your company to begin the dialogue and how to minimize disruption and impact on you as a professional.

No alternative

When there is no alternative for you, it is important to understand the ramifications of your decision. Penalties for early termination will be in the contract. For example, it is highly likely you be required to pay back at least the cost of your housing for the remainder of the time it is contracted. And, the recruiter is not obligated to pay for your return travel home.

Recent research has shown that cancellations by the traveling nurse are most likely to occur before work begins but after the verbal agreement or signed travel nurse contract. After that, experts agree that the decision to back out should be viewed only as a last resort. Despite the potential risk, travel nurses break contracts for a host of reasons, including, homesickness, dislike for the location, unwilling to do the commute or having an on the job personality conflict. Be sure you are aware of what your contract states and does not state then call your recruiter. The first step is to try honest open discussions between the provider, the recruiter, and the facility to reach a resolution that hopefully protects your reputation.

It is best to leave on good terms

If you want to continue a travel career, it’s best to leave on good terms. A little extra effort here can go a long way. Your reputation is your single strongest asset in the job market. Recruiters will evaluate the labor pool, often have a “go-to” list of candidates, and also have lists for those who they feel exhibit commitment issues.

The best advice is to avoid breaking a contract for reasons under your control. Be responsible with your choices and decisions. Do your homework before signing a contract or even giving a verbal acceptance. Know about the facility, the area, the housing options, the people, etc. as much as you possibly can to make an educated decision. You may also choose to start out with a very short term length, that way if it doesn’t work out you don’t have to stay very long and you can still honor your commitment.

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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