You’ve talked to the hospital and made your decision. Your destination has been determined. The recruiter talks to the hospital and the deal is done on their end. But what about the deal on your end?
This is where things get fun. Everything is agreed upon verbally in your interview and then the contract is drawn up and sent to you. Your first responsibility is to read the fine print of the document that will dictate what your career will be for the next 13 weeks.
Negotiations with the recruiter can sometimes be a tedious job, but every detail must be dealt with. Your first hunch might be to believe, “we discussed everything, and it’s in there.” NO! I guarantee you that the first time you do, it that will be the last time that you do that.
Sit down in a quiet place and read your contract word for word and between the lines. If there is any part that you do not agree with, or have questions about, do NOT sign until those questions have been answered.
What exactly is in this wonderful document? When you open up your new hire packet, you will find several pages of legal jargon that state that you are going to a hospital or facility to work for a certain amount of time for a certain dollar amount. And that you are going to act like a professional and that the client hospital and your travel company are going to treat you like a professional. I may also have the information you will need to obtain a new state license.
We all should know our professional responsibilities, but because some nurses do not act professionally at all times, those paragraphs have to be added. This part of the contract states that if you cannot show up for your assignment, then you need to call at least two hours before your shift starts. This section also draws the lines of when you, in effect, “voluntarily quit. Although some companies allow for a “lenient” day, most of the time if you do not show up for the first day then travel companies considers that a voluntary quit.
If you do not want to float or do not want to be put on call, then make sure that it is put into writing. If you do not feel comfortable floating to a certain floor, like Obstetrics or Pediatrics, then state it in your contract. When reviewing this section of your contract, you must also be mindful that part of a travel nurses job is to be flexible. Just remember that it is one thing to be flexible and another to be dangerous by attempting a job that you are not qualified for; therefore, putting your license in jeopardy. If you want ever weekend on, or every weekend off, or you’re willing to work every other weekend, specify that in your contract if that matters to you. Put in writing whether or not you wish to work overtime.
Your travel arrangements and lodging arrangements should be next. Work closely with the housing coordinator to find exactly what part of town where you want to live. After you find out where you are going to be staying, always do as much research online as possible about the community surrounding that area. Listed here will be your permanent home address and even your temporary address. If applicable, your travel housing stipend amount will also be listed here.
Included might also be what you are to be paid for a per diem rate. This rate is a fixed rate that is paid to you for food, parking, and other ancillary expenses that incur while away from your home state. As of the writing of this chapter, the maximum allowed by the government is no more than $30 per day. Taxes should be taken out of your hourly rate, but not out of your per diem rate. Companies most often call this a “tax-advantage” program. You will file your taxes in your home state. You will get back most of the money that you paid into another state, but you can also expect to pay taxes into your home state.
Your contract will also indicate what is included in your housing arrangements. With some companies, you will also pay for cable and local phone. Most of them will not pay for those extra utilities; but, then again, everything is negotiable in this business!
The last part of the contract might include more legal jargon about benefits, injury on the job, alcohol use, illegal drug use, and the confidentiality clause. All of these important items are included in your contract to protect both you and the company.
In fact, that is the sole purpose of any contract that you have with any company. It is to protect you, the employee and the company. In this business, verbal agreements mean nothing. You ever watch those court shows in the afternoon? The judge always wants to know if you had it in writing. If it isn’t in writing, you just lost. A nice recruiter may be a pleasure to work with, but they are working for the money that they get from handling your contract. Remember at all times that this is really a business deal.
Take your time and go through your contract with a fine tooth combine. Although contracts are not the reason why we love travel nursing, they can be the difference between a great contract and a nasty turnout.