Should You Take A Crisis Assignment?
What a HOT topic the past couple of weeks. A topic that has created anxiety, excitement, bitterness, and has, frankly, turned into quite the mess. I have received numerous phone calls/texts over the weeks about what it looks like to take one of these “crisis” assignments. Given, I am only on assignment number two, I have many thoughts regarding some of these assignments floating around as well as relayed information from my awesome recruiter. You may or may not agree with my insight on this topic. This is just from my experience thus far.
If you are on any travel nursing Facebook page, it will only take a couple of scrolls before you are ready to chunk your computer across the room or just completely lose your mind. They are filled with recruiters tossing out jobs with insane weekly take-homes, people in a scurry to find housing, and amidst this, people are just simply being negative and sometimes hateful. Let’s put a few things into perspective here and take the emotions out of it for just a second.
First off, thank you to EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON. out there fighting on the front lines, traveler or permanent staff. YOU ALL ARE ROCKSTARS!!! So, the big question, should you take a crisis assignment? Well, I can’t answer that for you, but let me give you some advice. Do not, I repeat, do not make an emotional decision. There is a lot of tension in the air surrounding the pay travelers are making during this crisis compared to staff nurses. I totally get it. I would feel and have felt the same way when I was a staff nurse. Is it my hope that every single essential personnel would be compensated with hazard pay? Absolutely. Unfortunately, I don’t know the ins and outs of this and why this can’t happen for everyone, so I won’t speak to something that I know nothing about. The point is, hazard pay is not happening for everyone. Do not let your anger or crisis pay be the driving force of picking up and leaving your full-time job. If you want to re-evaluate your current job after this crisis is over, that sounds much more reasonable. Leaving your job during this time is a recipe for disaster, plus, you are not leaving a good taste in your current employer's mouth for you in the future, which as much as you say doesn’t matter, it absolutely does. My main point here, do not make an emotional decision and jump ship without thoroughly thinking it through. I don’t know that I would recommend taking your first travel assignment during a pandemic. Some may handle it very well, but others will really struggle. I want everyone to have the optimal travel experience. You need to feel confident in your skills and your abilities to take care of these critical patients. Traveling is the BEST journey, and you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best experience possible. Remember, this will pass. At this moment, it feels like we will be in crisis forever, but, it will pass, and things will go back to normal eventually. Travel nursing is not a now or never thing. It will still be there when the pandemic is over.
For those of you who feel you are not making an emotional decision and feel called to serve in places with higher needs, or maybe you have already been thinking about traveling, that's awesome! I can share some advice on this, too! Your recruiter is everything. I would very much advise against going with a random recruiter that you see on Facebook posting positions for 5K. This is how I view a recruiter, they are to you what we are to our patients. They are our advocates. They protect us from a slew of things during assignments. You must trust your recruiter and that they have your best interest at heart. Also, remember that they are making money off of these 5K assignments, too, so of course, they want you to take these positions. If you don’t have one already, find a recruiter you trust. Reach out to traveling friends and get recommendations on good recruiters that they have had positive experiences with thus far. It is ok to not feel a connection with every recruiter you speak with. Trust your gut.
Once you find a recruiter that you connect with, ask those hard questions that require transparency on their end. One thing you need to know, although way less likely on non-crisis assignments, the hospital can cancel your contract at any time really. I know it's not fair, but they can do it. Here is what is currently happening, hospitals are hiring a lot of nurses in PREPARATION for what is to come. They are hiring for the worst-case scenario. At many hospitals right now, the census is low, but the acuity is much higher. This is not everywhere, obviously, but a lot of places. Many facilities have floors shut down and have the nurses from those floors floating to other units. Staff nurses are being flexed into work and even being placed on call from their scheduled shifts because the census is so low in certain places. Hospitals are in a tough spot right now. They are losing money. They are not going to pay 5K/week to 50 plus travelers that they don’t need. In this case, they will cancel. It is already happening in certain places, and it's already happened since I've been writing this post. If your recruiter tells you they can’t cancel, this should be a red flag and you should do a little more digging.
Another piece of advice - know exactly what you are signing up for. Certain contracts are requiring 4 days a week and some even 60 hours a week to get certain pay packages. Ask yourself, is this worth it? Some of you may argue that you work 4 days a week already at your current facility. Yes, you may, but this is at your discretion. You CHOOSE to pick up that 4th shift when and if you feel up to it. If this is in your contract you will be required to work four days a week for the allotted assignment time. There are nurses reporting that they are being scheduled for seven days in a row and sometimes more. Even the strongest warriors need a break. I recommend taking a 3 days a week assignment with an overtime option. This is what I decided upon. It is not paying 5k a week, but I am still receiving really good pay, and in the end, I’m making the same amount just over 13 weeks instead of eight without feeling backed into a corner to work a 4th day weekly. Please protect yourself. We need you healthy now more than ever!
There are a couple of questions I would recommend asking before accepting a crisis assignment.
1. Will my assignment include paid quarantine in the event I get COVID-19?
2. Is my facility well equipped with PPE? (please note, nobody can tell you what the future holds. PPE can always run out.)
3. Will I be floated to different units given the event my unit is shut down if the census is low?
These are questions to add to your other typical questions, of course.
I also want to mention, I am by no means advising you to not accept a good crisis pay package. It costs money to relocate, it costs money to live and survive in these expensive places. So, you do have to make sure that you feel your contract is compensating well. You will also need to highly consider the housing situation in the place you plan on traveling to. Some places are saying that Airbnb has completely stopped all rentals until this pandemic is over. You have to also consider, are you trying to rent a place by yourself, or are you open to having other roommates? Please protect yourself with housing, too. Nurses and other healthcare workers are being uprooted from their rentals because people feel that we are “unsafe” because we work with the virus.
Guys, I know this is tough, trust me. Dig deep and remember why you chose nursing or whatever your current profession is. None of us, hopefully, are doing it for the money. We are doing it because we took an oath to practice faithfully and to remain devoted to the wellbeing of others. I know some will disagree with me on this, but we cannot abandon our patients when times get tough. Let this bring us together more than ever before. I don't judge the nurse working next to me by their paycheck but by their dedication and love of their patients. There are millions of individuals without jobs right now and are just trying to survive. Praise the Lord that we are still receiving a paycheck!
We can and we WILL make it through this!
Natalie Wilson, traveling Emergency Room RN