By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
As a travel nurse, we have the unique advantage of having a little more control over our schedule while on assignment. Many travelers use their contracts as a way to get specific time off, and this can include traveling around major holidays. Each manager and unit will have different needs regarding holiday staffing, so going in knowing all of the possible scenarios can help set you up for the best and happiest holiday season.
First, be sure to plan ahead when looking for assignments that start around the holidays. When you are needing to make specific scheduling requests, recruiters will typically send these requests in with your original contract. It is also prudent to bring up any requests during your interview, so knowing your plans ahead of time is crucial to making sure you can secure your contract and get the time off you would like.
As a traveler, if you forget to get your requested dates off in writing your travel company can do little to support you if the manager decides not to honor your scheduling requests. Even if the manager seems very agreeable to requests, get it in writing before signing your contract. Similarly, if a recruiter tells you to just get a verbal okay from a manager, insist that these requests are added to your contract before signing.
On the other hand, you may be one of those travel nurses who would love to work the holidays and make a little extra money. Many times travelers opt to work around the holidays and take some time off before or after to go back home. This can even help move your name to the front of the list when searching for jobs this time of year because managers don’t have to worry about giving you time off during a busy time of year.
Another important factor in working the holidays is negotiating a higher hourly rate for holiday pay. Holiday policies may vary between companies, so ask your recruiter for an overview and once again get your holiday rate in your contract. I have also seen companies that offer bonuses for working holidays, so it never hurts to ask if your travel company offers something like that. Also note that your holiday rate should be based on your blended hourly rate, not just off of your taxable rate.
If working the holidays is your goal, be sure to check with the hiring manager during your interview to see what the hospital policy is for travel nurses. Because travelers cost the hospital more money, there may be a rule against travelers working for holiday pay. I have actually been moved off of holidays I volunteered to work, so it just depends on how strict the policy is.
The last way to approach the holidays is to simply skip working the time around them. In theory, you could finish up a contract the week before Thanksgiving and take about a month off before returning to work after Christmas.
While you may get lucky and just happen to have your fall contract end right on this timeline, you can also use extensions to make this happen. Many managers may not be willing to do a short contract upfront, but if you only need a few weeks of work to get you up to the holidays they may be willing to do a short extension. Similarly, they may be more willing to give you time off around the holidays if you are extending and they already know your capabilities and work ethic. Use this to your power when negotiating either a shortened extension or a full extension with time off to go home. You never know unless you ask, and may be able to do some haggling with the manager to meet their needs and your goals.
One important thing to keep in mind is if you decide to head back to work around early January is the market will generally be slightly flooded. Many travelers take at least a couple weeks off before Christmas and will be looking for assignments starting the first or second week of January. Have some extra money put aside just in case it takes a bit longer to find something. Generally, the market levels out again by the end of January and you will be fine in the long run.
Regardless of how you decide to approach the holiday season as a travel nurse, the beauty is that travel gives you more control than working as a permanent staff nurse. There isn’t a holiday rotation to worry about, you can take off as much or as little time as you want, or you can rake in more cash than you would at a regular job. Feeling empowered to make these decisions is a great feeling, and will ensure you have the best or most lucrative holiday season you could hope for.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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