What Happens When You Get Sick on Assignment?

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, June 04, 2020 Posted in On the Job

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Most nurses have dealt with serious illness at some point in their tenure. Despite all the hygienic practices in the healthcare environment, it’s still very easy to catch the flu or something sinister like C. Diff if it’s going around. If you do, you’ll end up on bedrest just like anyone else.

For travel nurses, this can be an even bigger problem beyond your health. It means missing shifts, which could put you between a rock and a hard place while on assignment.

How sick leave might impact your assignment

Two of the biggest illness concerns travel nurses have while on assignment are how it affects their pay and how it affects their contract. Unfortunately, if you’re sick enough to need bedrest, it’s likely that you’ll miss a shift or two. This could impact your income and professional relationships.

Missing a shift for any reason, including illness, could lower your paycheck. As a travel nurse, you’re paid for the hours you work, so missing hours could reduce your take-home pay. Additionally, calling out too many times during a given assignment could result in more severe repercussions, like chargebacks on your housing and even contract termination.

However, illnesses happen. Many hospitals and staffing agencies are willing to work with travel nurses to find solutions. To ensure the best outcome and avoid consequences like contract termination, you need to take the initiative and be transparent with your employers.

If you’re sick and need to miss a shift, be sure to follow the specific call-off process outlined by your agency. Typically, this means contacting your recruiter or agency on-call line and then reaching out to your supervisor as early as you can so they can find a replacement.

When you recover and are able to work again, you’ll want to discuss make-up shifts with your supervisor. Making up all the hours you missed ensures you reach your pre-determined contract hours and maintain a positive relationship with the hospital and your agency. After you have established a plan with your supervisor to make up shifts, be sure to communicate that plan with your recruiter as well.

If you don’t follow the proper call-out protocol or make up your missing shifts, negative consequences will follow. Your assignment contract will hold information regarding missing shifts, pay, chargebacks, and termination, so be sure to review it.

sick dollar

Travel nursing and paid sick leave

Travel nurses working in certain states may have added protection when it comes to sick leave. Some states have legislature that mandates employers provide sick pay. The rules for this paid sick leave vary from state to state. Some states allow you to accrue sick pay based on hours worked, with the ability to use it right away. Others require employers to pay for sick leave after 30 days of employment. Some states only allow employees to use sick pay after 90 days, which may make it difficult for you to call in sick on a single assignment.

If you’re illness is significant enough to require you to miss several weeks of work, however, short-term disability may be an option. Health Providers Choice provides short-term disability for all employees who meet the requirements.

Staying healthy is paramount

It’s not always possible to avoid falling ill. Nurses should take every precaution to avoid getting sick during assignment, both for their own benefit and to avoid contract snafus.

Make healthy living a priority. Wash your hands frequently, get a full eight hours of sleep each night, eat healthy and balanced meals, exercise, and find productive ways to relieve stress. All these things can bolster your immune system and keep you healthy, thereby reducing your chances of missing shifts on assignment.

No one can control when they get sick, but there are precautions nurses can take to minimize their risk of coming down with a serious illness. If you do catch the flu, a bout of C. Diff, or wind up with a stomach bug, make sure you’re notifying your hospital and your Health Providers Choice recruiter right away! Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.