What to Do if Your Travel Nurse Contract Gets Canceled

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As a travel nurse, the thought of getting a travel nurse contract signed offers a wave of relief.  You know where you’re going, for how long you will be there, you have your pay package in your contract, your vacation time, and some other minute details to ensure a seamless assignment.  But what happens when your travel nurse contract gets canceled?

The longer I’ve been a travel nurse, the more I’ve realized that the idea of having a contract signed is a false sense of security.  As it turns out, hospitals can cancel travel nurses left and right with seemingly zero repercussions.  However, if you, the travel nurse cancels your contract… well, you can be blacklisted from hospitals and from working with other travel nurse companies.  And I don’t tell you this to deter you from becoming a travel nurse.  In most cases, travel nurses can go their entire careers without being canceled from a contract.   I completed 9 assignments without ever being scared my contract would get canceled.  But when I did get canceled on assignment number 10, I realized that I could let this affect the way that I view travel nursing (in a negative way).  Or learn from it, pull myself together, and move forward positively and productively.  Here’s what I learned from having my travel nurse contract terminated, and tips for moving forward.


So Your Travel Nurse Contract Got Canceled.  Now What?

nurse in blue scrubs with a seattle coffee mug

In most cases, if your contract gets canceled, the hospital will inform your recruiter and your recruiter will inform you.  This tends to happen pretty quickly with virtually no warning.  However, in some cases, the hospital will notify you 2-weeks before canceling your contract.  If this is the case you at least have a bit of warning as to what’s coming and have some extra time to deal with it and figure out your next move.

The very first thing that you should do once you’re canceled is not to take it personally.  The truth of the matter is, the hospital is only worried about the bottom line – how to save and make money.  If you’re canceled as a travel nurse, it’s not a personal attack on you, but rather the hospital trying to save face.  (There are exceptions.  If you are not qualified for the job, have lied in your interview, call in sick over and over, and generally don’t get along with the staff… then you can be canceled for reasons pertaining to yourself).  You can be upset and hurt for a while, but pull yourself together, give yourself a pep talk, and get back out there.  This is no reflection on you as a nurse.


Why it’s Important to Build a Savings Account

nurse in scrubs holding seattle coffee mug in hand, outside

Getting canceled as a travel nurse can put you in financially binding circumstances.  For instance, if you pay a huge sum of money upfront for housing and now your landlord doesn’t want to give it back to you.  Or if you have plane tickets that will need to be changed.  No doubt getting canceled can take a huge hit on your bank account, and it isn’t just because you aren’t getting paid anymore.  The bad news is that if you’re canceled, your travel nurse company has no incentive to help you out.  You’ve stopped working, which means that they’ve stopped making money from the hospital, and there isn’t any safety net protecting us as travel nurses.  That is why it’s incredibly important to seriously save money and start doing so immediately when you earn your first paycheck.


For more tips on saving/managing money as a travel nurse, make sure to read:

How to Manage Your Money As a Travel Nurse

How I Save Money to Travel and Build a Hefty “Travel Savings” Each Year


Decide Your Next Steps

nurse in scrubs reading book about Portugal

Once you’ve set yourself up the best that you can – by saving money and not taking getting canceled personally; it’s time to decide your next steps.  If you already have your next travel nurse assignment lined up, you could either take some time off of work to go home or travel instead.  However, if you don’t want to take time off of work you could reach out to your recruiter and ask if there is any way you can start your next travel assignment earlier than expected.  If this isn’t a possibility another option would be to keep an eye out for short-term contracts.  Faststaff is a travel nurse company that specializes in short-term travel contracts around the US.  Another option would be to become a strike nurse.  While strikes are unpredictable, if you end up working one, the pay would be enough to pad your bank account for some time.  To keep an eye on potential strikes across the US, sign up with US Nursing Corporation.

If you don’t have your next travel nurse assignment, again, decide what is important to you.  Do you want to start working right away?  Or do you want to take some time off to travel or go home?  If you decide that you want to start working right away, make sure to get in contact with each recruiter that you’re actively working with.  (If you’re not working with multiple recruiters, read my guide on why you should).  Request an assignment with an ASAP start date and go from there.  If you want to take some time off work to go home or travel, then still get in touch with recruiters and tell them about when you’ll be looking for your next assignment.  If you want to travel but you’re unsure where to go on such short notice, I like to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest country to fly to.  The way this works is by typing in where you’ll be flying from and then putting “everywhere” in the “to” location.  Skyscanner then auto-populates flights based on prices from lowest to highest.


Now that you have some good ideas for how to handle your travel nurse contract being canceled, I’d like to point out that you mustn’t be quitting a travel nurse contract yourself.  In the case that you feel like your RN license is at risk or you’re in an unsafe environment, then it is okay to terminate your contract.  However, if you’re canceling for reasons such as you found out there is a higher-paying contract elsewhere, or you decide that you want to go on vacation instead, I urge you to think again.  Both travel nurse companies and managers at hospitals talk amongst each other.  You don’t want to have your name smeared by being irresponsible and canceling just for the heck of it.  Especially if you’re a new travel nurse it can be hard to find another contract.  If something truly comes up, talk with your recruiter and your manager.  Most people are pretty flexible under the right circumstances.


Remember, travel nursing is a fickle and ever-changing specialty.  Things can go wrong, but they can also go right too.  If travel nursing is what you truly want to do, don’t let the thought of a contract being canceled deter you.  Instead, make sure that you’re building a savings account, and being flexible.  With the right attitude, you can deal with anything that comes your way.  And don’t forget to keep your travel nurse resume updated and ready to send out for any last-minute job openings!


Don’t miss:  Disadvantages of Being a Travel Nurse


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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  1. Priya
    November 19, 2022 / 7:56 pm

    Hi, I happened to read your article, and feel very useful.

  2. nicole freitag
    December 23, 2022 / 4:27 pm

    What happens if you have already signed a lease?

    • December 27, 2022 / 12:50 pm

      This is the hard part about travel nursing – you might have to just go through with the lease. I would suggest reaching out to your recruiter to see if the company is able to reimburse you in anyway and I would also talk to the homeowner to see if they are able to help you out at all.

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