I want to start this post by letting you know that I have dealt with loads of travel nurse recruiters through my 3+ years of being a travel nurse. Most travel nurse recruiters are fantastic. I enjoy working with them, talking to them, and have gotten to know a few pretty well. However, with the good come the bad. And there are also some pretty bad travel nurse recruiters out there. But this isn’t just a case of a bad travel nurse recruiter. Instead, this is a case of a travel nurse recruiter who took advantage of a new traveler. This story is an example of why it’s best to work with a referral, how one recruiter can ruin an experience and taint the way you think of a company, and it’s a prime example of why you should know exactly what is in your contract before signing it.
If you’ve had a bad experience with your recruiter, make sure to read: How to Break Up With Your Travel Nurse Recruiter
Travel Nurse Contract #3 – The Worst Travel Nurse Recruiter I’ve Ever Worked With
At this point in my life, I am now on travel nurse contract #3! I had finished up two back-to-back contracts in Omaha, Nebraska, and was craving to move out of my parent’s house, hit the road, and welcome some much-needed excitement into my life. So I signed a contract in Santa Barabara, CA with Suzy Q (name has been changed) from American Mobile (the company has not been changed). Suzy Q had been a travel nurse recruiter for years, so I was excited to work with an experienced recruiter in a company that was known for placing travel nurses all across the country. Unfortunately, despite her years of experience, Suzy Q did a very, very poor job at prepping me for my big move to California.
From the start, I felt that I was having to battle Suzy Q for every penny that was rightfully mine. She failed to inform me that American Mobile would only reimburse my travel expenses if I sent a picture BEFORE and AFTER my assignment of my odometer. (Please note that this is absurd and no other good company requires this). And not only that, but she did a very, very poor job of giving me a fair contract. Mind you, I was still relatively new to travel nursing and didn’t know I could negotiate for more money at this time. I was headed to Santa Barbara, one of the most expensive places in the country, making $>300 less per week than every other travel nurse on the floor. More importantly, however, was that I didn’t know to ask about “guaranteed hours”. For those of you reading this who are new-ish to travel nursing, guaranteed hours is something that should always be talked about before signing a contract – and something that should be in your contract. If you have guaranteed hours, it means that even if the hospital cancels you because of low census – you still get paid.
I didn’t have guaranteed hours in my contract, and I didn’t even know what that meant at the time. I headed to California without taking a picture of my odometer, with a very low-paying contract, and no guaranteed hours. Little did I know, I was being screwed by Suzy Q.
My Arrival in Santa Barbara
I arrived in Santa Barbara a few days after taking off from Omaha. My dad and I road-tripped through the country stopping in Colorado and Las Vegas before setting our sights on California. Looking back, it was perhaps the best part of my assignment. We pulled into my little, one-bedroom apartment that overlooked the ocean. A view I grew to despise every time rent was due – it cost me $3,200/month. I unpacked my car, we said our goodbyes, and I prepared to start hospital orientation the following week.
As soon as I started working at the hospital, the census dropped and travelers were beginning to get canceled. In my case, I was canceled 1-2x/week every single week I was there. Without having guaranteed hours, and with my already low-paying contract, I was struggling to make ends meets. While I would get the call that I was canceled and spend the night worried about money, I didn’t understand why the other travel nurses relished in getting canceled. It seemed as though they took it as a time to celebrate, while I took it as, “I guess I can’t afford to go out to eat this week”. It wasn’t until I met Heather that I understood just how badly I was getting screwed over.
Heather and I become fast friends. She’s one of my favorite people I’ve met in all of my time as a travel nurse. It seemed that we had wine in common, and a plethora of horrible dating stories. We spent our days off in the vineyards of Los Olivos while exploring the Santa Barbara restaurant scene at night. I was so grateful to have met Heather.
The Importance of Guaranteed Hours
While I was grateful to have a friend in Heather, I was more grateful for her guidance as it related to travel nursing. At this point, she had been traveling much longer than me. Heather informed me that at the hospital we were both working at, it was the policy that after travel nurses get canceled four times in one contract, that they start to get paid. This means that for the first four times of me being canceled I do not get paid. However, on the fifth time (and anytime after that)… I do get paid. This was never stated in my contract so I didn’t know that this rule existed, nor did I know to ask about the hospital policy of guaranteed hours.
When I realized that I should have been getting paid weeks ago, I brought this up to Suzy Q who just scoffed at me and said, “Well that isn’t in your contract”. Luckily I had the nerve to push back claiming that it was hospital policy and she didn’t have the right to withhold that money from me. She finally folded and agreed to draw up a new contract and add it in, requesting me to resign it. At this point, American Mobile owed me nearly $1,000.
The next two paychecks that came in, the $1,000 wasn’t added on. I would notify Suzy Q about it, who seemed to be ignoring me at this point. I would call, email, text, and I would get back radio silence. Not even a simple, “I’m working on it”. Instead… nothing. I honestly believe I could have told her my arm fell off and I’d be out of work and I don’t think she would have responded.
Finally, after three weeks of not hearing from Suzy Q despite my many calls and texts, I had the brilliant idea to call her office to see if she was at work that day. I rang American Mobile and said, “Is Suzy Q in today”? The lady who answered the phone kindly said, “Yes! I just saw her… she’s in her office”. So she transferred me… and… Suzy Q didn’t answer. But are you surprised? I left a voicemail that said, “Suzy Q. I know you’re in your office because somebody told me you’re there. You haven’t responded to me in over three weeks and my paycheck has not been reimbursed by the money American Mobile owes me. I need you to respond”. The next day she rang me and had the nerve to tell me that I was in the wrong. She told me that she was doing me a “favor” by allowing me to follow the hospital policy of guaranteed hours. She then told me that I was “nasty” and that she had “better things to do” then answer my phone calls. She said, “I have three little kids to take care of and no time to be dealing with you”. (Something a recruiter should never say). It was then that I decided to believe all of the horrible things I had heard about American Mobile in the past. I also learned that not all travel nurse recruiters have your best interest at heart. And some recruiters should not be recruiting at all.
In the end, I got my money and decided to cut all ties with American Mobile. To this day Suzy Q, the worst travel nurse recruiter I’ve ever worked with, still has the nerve to email me about job openings.
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