True or False: Travel Nurses Treated Poorly?

We recently surveyed all our Next Move nurses to get a feel, in real-time, of what they love about travel nursing, what they hate, and what we as the best travel nurse agency in the Midwest, can do to help.

The survey brought some insight to the team and we’d like to address it with you directly today:

Are travel nurses treated poorly by hospital staff?

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If you’ve ever considered a career in travel nursing, you’ve heard some of the horror stories: the worst patients, the worst schedules, the worst treatment – basically just poop everywhere. It came up in our survey.  We asked: If you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change about travel nursing?

Here’s what our nurses said:

  • Travel nurses are often given crappy assignments and treated as outcasts inside the hospital.
  • The stigma of travel nursing in general and how core staff don’t view us as “good enough”.
  • I guess I wish I’d never heard someone say to me “you must not be a­­­ good a nurse or you wouldn’t be traveling.”
  • I would change the way staff typically feel about us. We are there to help and that isn’t always received in the best way. 

We’re grateful that our nurses were comfortable enough to answer honestly because it gives us the opportunity to address this directly.

The unfortunate truth is: Yes, at some hospitals travel nurses are treated poorly and unfairly and there is a stigma at these hospitals that travel nurses aren’t as experienced or educated in their profession. While we can’t fight the culture of some hospitals, we can, as practicing RNs ourselves, shed some light on this issue and address it honestly. So let’s get to it!


Travel nurses always get the crappy assignments?


Nurse’s will often define the “crappy” assignments as those in which they’re assigned the most “complicated” patients. Let’s take an example to provide some insight:

ICU Nurse: If you’ve worked as a staff ICU nurse, you’re probably used to taking care of the sickest of the sick patients and your days consisted of balloon pumps, CRRT, ECMO, etc. 

So, when you make the switch over to travel nursing you may be surprised that you’re being assigned ICU patients that need a different kind of care, the “walkie talkies” if you will. Instead of working with machines, you’re working with people and the difference between a quiet machine and a walking/talking human being can be striking and feel pretty “crappy”.

When you have so much ICU experience, why has this charge nurse switched things up? Doesn’t she know who you are?

Well, the honest answer is . . . no, she doesn’t. She has your resume,  but no hands-on-knowledge of your skill set.  She may hesitate to give you more critical needs patients until she’s more comfortable working with you. 

Other Circumstances: It’s also true that as a travel nurse, you’ll be asked to work where you are needed. If you’re an ER nurse, that can mean working in Zone 1, then Zone 2, then Zone 3 and back to Zone 1 again before your shift is over. Remember – it’s not personal. It’s just where you’re needed. But we do understand, it can be challenging. 


Travel nurses always have to float?


This is a fact: In most hospitals, travel nurses are usually required to float and are usually the first to float which can definitely seem unfair. “Why am I always the first to float – I floated yesterday, and the day before and the day before….”

We get it. Each department comes with a completely different set of patients and procedures. But remember you’re at that hospital to fill a need. So while it may feel marginalizing to always be asked to float, that’s the nature of the job. Hospitals hire travel nurses to create flexibility in their scheduling. So, travel nurses in turn, need to be flexible.

If you are absolutely against floating: We do have some good news – you can ask for it in your contract! “No float”.  The truth is, it will limit the number of openings available to you, so you may not qualify for as many assignments as you’d like. However, if a “no float” policy in your contract will improve your quality of life: we’re all for it. Just talk to your recruiter about those specifications!


Travel nurses get the worst schedules?


We can verify that this is absolutely not true, and here’s why: travel nurse’s get to choose their schedules – and it’s specified in their contracts. If you only want to work days, need block scheduling and prefer to not work every weekend: all of that can be specified in your contract.

Choosing an assignment that fits your scheduling needs is extremely important – so be sure to specify what those needs are to your recruiter. Many contracts will have an “every other weekend” or “holiday” requirement – but all of that is negotiable.

You may not get the “exact” schedule you ask for – but you should be able to get something close. Just make sure it’s in your contract. And if you know you’re going to need time off during an assignment – make sure that’s in your contract as well!

True Story: We’ve had night shift nurses who have been asked to work a couple of day shifts by their nurse managers, but because their schedules were specified in their contracts – they were able to turn down those dayshifts with no penalty. Your contract gives you all the power, so make sure to have everything in writing before you start.


There’s no such thing as a ‘travel friendly’ hospital?


A hospital that’s not used to working with travel nurses – means a hospital that is staffed with people who are not used to working with  travel nurses which “can” increase your chances for poor treatment.

If this is your first or second assignment – choose a hospital/unit that has worked with travel nurses before. The on-boarding process will be a lot smoother and management in these instances are generally more supportive. You can either bring this up during the interview – or talk to your recruiter directly.  It’s always easier to start a new assignment, knowing you’re not alone and that there are other travelers who you can commiserate with.

It’s also good to keep in mind the possibility that core staff may not really speak to you for your first couple of weeks. Try to not take it personally – it’s just sort of the way it is sometimes when people don’t know the awesomeness that is you. If you’re open and friendly, it’ll be easier for people to feel comfortable enough to connect with you. If you’re the opposite – quiet and keep to yourself – it’s super likely people won’t feel a strong pull to approach you.


Management doesn’t support travel nurses?


Working for a hospital with experience hosting travel nurses is the way to go. The on-boarding process will be smoother, and leadership will have systems in place for managing travel nurses. 

Hospitals without a lot of experience working with travelers may feel more complicated but remember: you work for the staffing agency that hired you. Your agency is your liaison, your advocate, and your support. So opt to work with recruiters who you can have a good, open and honest relationship with. They will be your best ally.


No travel assignment lasts forever.


Here’s the cold hard truth — you’re not going to love every single assignment you take. Some assignments are about that weekly paycheck and that’s it. Sometimes core staff will act like absolute jerks. Sometimes it will feel like all you do is scut work. Sometimes your 12-hour shift will feel like 4,568 hours. And sometimes you will want to punch Charge Nurse Karen in the face. You won’t. But it will cross your mind.

Remember: No travel assignment lasts forever. It’s not the rest of your life. It’s just 13-weeks. Keep focused on the positive. Don’t let other people’s horror stories scare you away from travel nursing.

For the most part, travel nursing is totally awesome. How do we know? At Next Move, we have an 85% retention rate. 85% of our nurses come back looking for more! So, it can’t be all bad.


Got Travel Nursing Questions?


Did we miss anything? Do you still have questions about travel nursing? Give us a call (or shoot us an email) today and one of our dedicated team members would be happy to answer any questions you might have.


Next Move Inc
Nurse First.
Nurse Powered.

(816) 601 -3800

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