Working as a travel nurse during strikes has been a lucrative endeavor for RNs for years. These contracts will often pay for the travel nurse to get to the location, accommodations, and transportation to and from the job site. In addition, the rates are usually quite high with past wages reported over $2500/week. These benefits come with the expectation that the travel nurse will receive a very minimal orientation, and be expected to function on the floor upon arriving at the facility.
What is a Nursing Strike?
A strike occurs when nursing staff at a facility are part of a nursing union. Unions have agreements with hospitals regarding pay, staffing, ratios, benefits, and almost anything else that has an impact on nursing. A contract is negotiated between the facility and the union, and if nurses feel like the hospital isn’t upholding their end of the bargain, they strike.
This may sound like abandonment to some folks, but the strikes are usually announced far enough in advance to give the hospital time to find alternate workers to care for all of the patients. Depending on the size of the facility, it can be a challenge for administration to find short term temporary workers on short notice.
Travel Nursing and Strikes
This is where travel nurses come in to rescue the facility. Hospitals will turn to travel nurse agencies to provide them with employees while their core staff is striking. Travel nursing agencies will contact nurses who are ready to go at a moment’s notice for these contracts. The start dates are usually within 3-7 days.
Working conditions aren’t always ideal, but it is manageable. Staffing is short due to the strike, and the units are often full of agency nurses who don’t know the equipment or where any of the supplies are located. Travel nurses must be prepared to just roll with it and enjoy the big bucks they are making for their sacrifice. An experienced travel nurse will have no problem adjusting to strike work.
As mentioned above, the contract will usually provide for the cost of travel, temporary housing, and transportation, if necessary (lodging is sometimes located in very close proximity to the hospital to avoid having to transport the extra staff). The pay rates are high because the travel nurses are expected to arrive ready to start. Most contracts are 48 hour work weeks and there is usually a prerequisite that the nurse must have experience with the EMR (charting) system.
Another challenge for some travel nurses is having to cross a picket line. The striking nurses are fighting for certain rights and processes, and it is sometimes perceived that those who cross the picket line do not support those who are striking. This is understandable, but also presents the question of- Who is supposed to care for the patients?
My advice: You do what is right for you. If you’re available and willing to work a strike contract for awesome pay- go for it. No judgment is more important than your own. No one can physically touch you as you cross the picket line. There tends to be shouting and lots of words, but there is no threat to your career for crossing a picket line as a travel nurse.
Benefits of Working Nursing Strikes
Aside from the high pay and provided housing, if the strike ends early, travel nurses are usually paid out through the end of the contract. The contracts are often only 1-2 weeks long (they will extend if needed). But, if the strike is resolved after two shifts, most agencies and facilities will pay out the remainder, and you get to go home!
Where are Travel Nursing Strike Assignments?
Historically, nursing strikes are most often in California, due to a strong union presence. But, as things evolve with the COVID pandemic, nurses across the US are standing up against their facilities and demanding better working conditions. A strike is difficult to organize without a union, so most assignments will still be at facilities with active union contracts.
COVID also means that we may see an increase in strike pay because they have to compete with travel nurse crisis contracts in COVID hot spots. Many states also have flexibility in their licensing process to respond to the coronavirus crisis, but it is unclear if those rules will apply to nurses responding to strikes. An active RN license may be required in some states.
How to Find a Travel Nursing Strike Contract
Complete your NurseFly profile today so that when a strike opportunity arises, you are ready to go. Travel nursing strike contracts usually fill quickly and having a completed profile and relationship with a recruiter will make you a top contender! I also recommend starting the process for a California license. Your recruiter can answer the question if an emergency permit will suffice, or if you will need to apply for the full RN state license.
Good luck and stay safe!