By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
If you are coming up on time to find a new contract this is both the best and worst time of year to be looking. Winter contracts and flu season rates are picking up, but as a travel nurse sometimes it is tough to think about being across the country from everyone you know during a time of year that is known for holiday gatherings.
There are a few ways you can approach finding a contract this time of year:
1. Aim to end your last contract of the year prior to the holiday season. This means planning for time off for 5-6 weeks if you want to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
2. Ask for time off around the holiday in your contract.
3. Work through the holidays and get creative with your celebrations.
By ending your last contract of the year in mid to late November, you will guarantee yourself a good amount of time off to see friends and family over the holiday. Of course, if you are reading this article now it is probably too late for you to take this step, but it can be a good goal for next year. Keep in mind you can also attempt to extend a summer contract into the later fall months, and give yourself a little more negotiation power when you only want a partial extension to get you to your goal dates.
The downside to this is you will be hitting the first-of-the-year mad dash for contracts. A lot of travelers are off this time of year, so many of them will start applying for jobs with start dates in the first week of January. And you have to factor in things like hospital HR departments that are closed around Christmas and New Years, which further slows down the process of getting a start date immediately after the holidays.
When you choose to go this route, just keep in mind that you may end up with a few more weeks off than initially anticipated. And also be ready to submit to those New Year jobs fast.
You could also attempt to take a job through the holidays and ask for time off to go home. This is a very tricky task because it could drastically decrease your marketability if managers are needing holiday coverage. If you submit to a popular job and want two weeks off for Christmas, your chances of getting picked tend to be lower. However, you can always feel out your requests during your interview to see if it seems worth it to hold on to that time off.
Some hospitals actually do not allow travel nurses to work holidays because of the cost. In this instance, you could try to find an assignment closer to home that won’t let you work the actual holiday, and attempt to get a day or two off around the holiday to drive home and visit. This would be a win-win because you don’t have to take any extra time off, and you would still get to spend time with loved ones over the holidays.
What a lot of travel nurses end up doing is developing their own, new holiday traditions. Since a lot of people cannot afford to take extended time off, or the allure of travel holiday pay rates are enticing, they will come up with a creative way to enjoy the holidays away from home.
One way to do this is to connect with other travel nurses who will be in the area over the holiday season. Consider hosting a “Friendsgiving” with your new crew of friends, or treat yourselves to a fancy dinner out. For Christmas, you could make a bucket list of places you want to see that are specific to the area and make a night of exploring your new city.
Another great option is to have friends and family come to you for the holidays. If you can, try to get a stretch of four or five days off (this is usually easy if the facility allows you to self-schedule). Then, invite your people to come to hang out and explore your new city. This doesn’t have to fall exactly on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but a lot of people have extra PTO to use up at the end of the year and will be excited to come to visit anywhere in that timeframe. Plus, you can still reap the benefits of the extra holiday pay since you have their visit to look forward to in the future.
The last idea for seeing friends and family around the holidays while working a travel nurse assignment is to fly home a few weeks after the new year for a longer visit. While managers might not be willing to grant you two weeks off right through Christmas, a couple of weeks in mid-January might not be as hard to accommodate. See if your friends or family would be willing to plan a late holiday celebration. There really is no “right” way to celebrate or spend time with friends and family. Being together is truly what matters most.
It can be easy to get stressed out about what the best course of action is when it comes to handling holiday assignments. While asking for accommodations is probably the most restrictive option, the beauty of travel nursing is that you have the option to do what is best for you. By knowing what your priorities are and having a candid conversation with your family about what their plans might be, you may end up creating new holiday traditions you never would have anticipated.
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.
- Agency Reviews
- Ask The Expert
- Continuing Education
- EMR Conversions
- First-Time Traveler
- For A Laugh
- Healthcare Roundup
- Hot Markets
- Industry Trends
- Market Data
- Nurse Contributor
- Take A Break
- Top 10
- Traveler Tips
- Weekly Polls
- Your Photos
- Your Stories