Ask a Travel Nurse: What do you do about safety concerns on assignment?

Ask a Travel Nurse

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Ask a Travel Nurse: What do you do about safety concerns on assignment?

Ask a Travel Nurse Question:

Hello, Mr. Morrison,

I had a bad experience on my most recent assignment and my contract was terminated last week. My company was made aware two months ago about safety issues on the unit and my desire to break my contract due to these safety issues — which included no Charge Nurse, no nurse aides on the unit, and five primary care patients on Med/Surg — but did nothing. What do you do about safety concerns on assignment? What approach do you suggest if the same scenario occurs in the future?

Thank you!

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

I’m sorry your travel experience was not a pleasant one.

Without speculating about specific facilities or systems, I will tell you that I once had my own similarly poor experience.

Some facilities have a habit of paying rather well, but I caution nurses that this is because they will work you. At such facilities you can plan to float to other units consistently, even if your contract is stated to be for a specific unit (as mine was) and plan to have little in the way of support (such as charge nurses or ancillary staff, like techs or aids).

Again, I cannot speak about specific facilities, but some do have a bit of a reputation in the travel world.

A simple step would be to avoid such facilities that are consistently charged with patient safety concerns, but this may not always be accommodating to your travel plans.

One way to “scope out” a facility is in the interview for the assignment. Have a list of questions ready to ascertain whether or not the facility appears to provide good support to their nursing staff. Ask if the unit has techs or aids, ask about nurse patient ratios, ask if there will be a charge nurse available each shift and if they are free floating or will also have a patient assignment. Basically, any concern you have run into in your practice is fair game in the interview.

You must also have a “good feel” after the interview. If you are already starting to question the safety of the facility, and have not even set foot inside the building, do you really think this will be an assignment that you will enjoy for three months?

One additional tactic, about which I have written (but never put into practice myself), would be to call the unit in which you will work during off hours (usually at night when less hectic). Ask one of the nurses if you could have five minutes of their time to ask some questions about the unit. Having never done this, I’m not sure if I would identify myself as a Travel Nurse or simply a nurse looking to come work in their unit (my instinct would be the latter).

I would then proceed to ask them what the unit is like. Do the nurses work together in a good team approach or is it every nurse for themselves? Do they have the tools needed to do their job? Is it a safe place to work? What is the acuity like and are the assignments usually paired correctly depending on those acuities? Anything you can think of to get an “inside” look into the unit.

Chances are, a bedside nurse is going to give a more accurate picture of the situation versus a unit manager who is just looking to get some help for their staffing needs.

Finally, ask your recruiter at your travel company if they have had any other Travelers that have worked at that facility. This is something I have done before and have received both positive and negative feedback on facilities. Your travel recruiter should also be able to tell you if the facility is known for, or has in the past, canceled any contracts. The relationships I have with my recruiters allows this type of honest dialog, but I cannot imagine any recruiter wanting to send a nurse to a facility that is known for contract terminations.

You also need to look at your travel company’s cancellation policy very carefully to see how much you might be on the hook for should a cancellation occur. There are actually companies out there that look at cancellations as part of doing business. However, there are also travel companies that will charge their Travelers thous and s of dollars to recoup costs of a canceled contract even when the cancellation was in no way the fault of the Travel Nurse.

I hope this helps make your next assignment a better experience.


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