Missing a Shift as a Travel Nurse – What You Need to Know

Written by Chelsea Idzior on Monday, July 15, 2019 Posted in On the Job

At some point in your travel nursing career, illness or personal emergency will likely require you to call off from work. However, in the travel healthcare industry, missing a shift has different repercussions than it does at a permanent job. 

How It Affects Your Paycheck

In the travel nursing industry, you are only paid for the hours that you work. This means that if you call off a shift, you will not be paid for that day. The reason for this is that your agency bills the hospital for the hours you work, collects that money from the facility, and then pays you. If you do not work, your agency cannot bill the facility, and therefore cannot pay you. This means that missing a shift results in a short paycheck.Time Clock

If you miss a shift, your housing compensation and bonuses can also be affected. The agency calculates your compensation package based on your contracted hours for the entire assignment. If you are under company-provided housing and miss a shift, you will be charged back the housing cost for those missed days. Also, bonuses such as completion bonuses usually require that all contracted hours are met in order to be paid out. If you miss a shift, you could be forfeiting your bonus. Although some agencies will offer some forgiveness when it comes to missed shifts, the majority will charge you back for missing time. Some companies even charge a traveler as much as a day and a half worth of pay, which is deducted on the following pay check if the traveler cancels a shift. At Health Providers Choice, you are allowed 24 forgiveness hours before enduring any charge backs - and you are never charged back your pay.

How It Affects Your Relationship with the Facility

It is important to maintain a good attendance record while on assignment since the facility only has you for a short amount of time – typically 13 weeks. Unless you have pre-approved time off in your contract, hospitals expect that you will not miss work, or will miss a minimal amount of work, during your assignment. Excessive call-outs can give you a bad attendance reputation with the facility, which can cause termination of your contract or affect your chance at being rehired by that hospital in the future. Most hospitals are no longer stand-alone facilities, but are now generally part of a larger hospital system. This means that if you are deemed a “do not hire” it could affect your ability to be hired at multiple hospitals state or nationwide.

Depending on the state you are working in, your employer may be required to report any “termination for cause” to the state board of nursing. This means that termination of your contract for poor attendance could result in you being reported to the state board, and these complaints are permanent. It is in your best interest to be aware of your state’s policy, and to make sure any call-offs are for a true illness or emergency.

What to Do If You Need to Call Off

If you do need to call off a shift, be sure to follow the proper protocol. The first call you should make is to your recruiter or the agency’s on-call line. Although you are working at the hospital, your agency is your employer so it is important to let them know if you are going to miss work. Also, depending on the hospital’s policy, your agency may have to notify the staffing office at the hospital of your absence. If the staffing office is not notified, you could be marked down as a no-call, no-show.

Generally, the second call you should make is to your unit supervisor to let them know that you are unable to make it to work. This way, your supervisor is aware that you will be absent and can make plans to find a replacement. It is also important to be upfront with your recruiter if you believe that you may have to miss multiple shifts. Your recruiter can work with the facility to prevent negative repercussions, such as termination of your contract.

Making up Missed Shifts

The best way to ensure that you maintain your relationship with the facility, uphold your contract with your agency, and get your full paycheck, is to make up any missed shifts. In most cases, you can make up your missed shift that week or the following without issue. You will want to discuss with your unit supervisor which day they can schedule you for a make-up shift based on availability and the unit’s need. If you are having trouble scheduling a make-up shift, contact your recruiter and they may be able to work with the facility to schedule a make-up shift. Your recruiter might also be able to negotiate adding extra days to the end of your contract to compensate for missed time.

It is not expected that travel nurses have a perfect attendance record all the time, and it is inevitable that emergencies will happen. As a travel nurse, it is extremely important that you understand the terms of your contract and your agency and hospital’s policy around call-offs. Your contract is a legal binding document and once that document is signed, the agency then becomes your employer. As an employer, your agency expects that you will put your best foot forward for the hospital, for your own profession, and for the agency. If you follow the proper protocol and make-up your missed time when possible, an occasional call-off is unlikely to affect your contract or professional reputation.