As a travel nurse, I took a poor working assignment a 12-hour shift without even enough break time to have a glass of water (I am not exaggerating). I had three patient complaints in one day. The first complaint was that I did not give pain medicine that was not requested; the second complaint was that I was rude because I did not give a patient ice chips or water that I was specifically ordered not to provide; and the third was by the wife of a patient that I was a travel nurse and she was afraid I would not know where everything was. The patient told me he had no problem with me.
My contract was canceled (I had been there a month and was given a good review by my preceptor). Now, I have a poor reference from them and have not been able to get a job. My agency dropped me with the cancellation of my contract saying other nurses there were doing just fine. This has hurt my career, and I have been out of work for more than six months. Now, agencies tell me I have been off too long to get a travel assignment. Do I have any recourse?
I don’t feel the rule about being hired at will” is fair. There are many understaffed and overworked nurses who have no protection from these types of work environments and managers who feel any complaint is in the favor of the patient, even when the nurse is doing her job appropriately.
Nancy Brent replies:
It sounds as though the travel agency you were working for at the time of this situation was not sympathetic or empathetic to its contracted nurses. Although you were told that other nurses working there were “doing fine, one has to question this as the truth.
Travel nursing is a very difficult area of nursing practice. As you know, you go into situations that are often less than ideal (in terms of staffing, support from nurse employees who may resent a travel nurse working in “their” agency, as examples). Moreover, as a contractual employee, you have little longevity if there is a complaint or a challenge to your work.
If it is possible to do so, you may want to get a copy of the good evaluation from your preceptor. This might help in getting signed up with a new travel agency.
It may be time for you to consider giving up travel nursing and getting into a more stable work situation. Although many nurse employees are “at will, they often have more rights when it comes to complaints about their practice (e.g., the employer’s grievance procedure, progressive discipline) than a contractual travel nurse whose contract is simply terminated if the contract is breached in any way (e.g., a complaint is made against the travel nurse).