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