What Happens When You Cancel a Travel Assignment?


Canceling a travel nurse contract is not something to be taken lightly.

While it’s never ideal that a contract is broken prior to the expected end date, there are certain circumstances that can cause it to happen. When a contract is ended before completion, regardless of the reason, it can be a loss to everyone involved — the employee, employer, patients, the colleagues you leave behind, and staffing agency.

It’s one of the key reasons why every travel healthcare professional should read each contract thoroughly before signing. Each company’s contract will be slightly different and contains important information like non-compete clauses and their cancellation policies.

Hospitals and health facilities cancel assignments as well – and if it’s happened to you, you know how annoying and stressful it is. However, traveler-initiated cancellations outnumber hospital cancellations five to one and are something the traveler has control over.

Cancel your contract and depending on the terms you agreed upon, there may be repercussions that fall on you or your recruiter. If your recruiting agency provided housing it could be in jeopardy, and you may be required to pay the remainder of the lease. If you secured your own housing, you’ll have to navigate that situation on your own.

Because hospitals merge often, you may be ineligible to return to work in that hospital system. This could impact your future ability to be hired within another organization and negatively impact your income and experience for years to come.

Oh, and did we mention that pulling out of your contract may make you a less desirable hire down the road?

What to Do if You Need to Cancel

Every situation is different, but what if you really have to break your contract?

Aside from contract discrepancies/disputes, there can be legitimate, unforeseen and unavoidable personal reasons you may need to break a contract. This would include major health issues or family emergencies. If something like this happens, take the following steps to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself, your agency, as well as the hospital and its patients.

  1. Communicate early and openly with your recruiter. The more notice the agency has on a pending problem before the assignment starts, the better. The most drastic consequences listed above occur when very little notice is given.
  2. Ask your recruiter if there are any alternatives to canceling the contract. For example, could you delay the start date, or work a different shift, etc.?)
  3. If canceling is the only option, follow the protocol your recruitment firm outlines. (i.e.: who is to notify the hospital – you or your agency, etc.)
  4. Offer referrals of other professionals who might be able to replace you if you can
  5. As a professional courtesy, when you’re able to work on an assignment again, do your best to accept one with the agency (and even the health facility) where you had to cancel.

A Final Word

Sometimes canceling a contract is unavoidable. But broken contracts are simply not good for you or the travel industry. Travelers are professionals contracted to provide relief as a reliable solution to the chronic staffing shortage. Canceling a booked assignment, especially at the last minute, goes against this promise and can hurt your career in the long run.

At Focus Staff, we understand the ins and outs of traveling healthcare professionals during these challenging times and have access to a wide variety of excellent professional opportunities. To learn more, contact us today.

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