Canceling your travel nursing contract

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While travel nursing can often feel like being on a permanent vacation, one of the few drawbacks is the absence of personal and vacation hours. What happens when you’re in California and a family emergency comes up in New York? Are you allowed to cancel your contract for a family emergency? What if you just really hate the assignment and can’t imagine staying the full length? Is it OK to walk away?

We recently spoke with Pamela Mackey at Tailored Healthcare Staffing about questions just like these. Pamela was kind enough to give us some examples of when it might be OK to cancel your contract, when it wouldn’t be OK, and what kind of repercussions you might expect from canceling.


1.  What are some examples where it would be acceptable for a traveler to cancel a contract?

– Where there is an unexpected family emergency.  Must be extremely urgent.
– Where the nurse feels his or her license is on the line and all avenues have been exhausted trying to get the problem rectified.
– If the nurse is too ill to complete the contract, we must have proper medical documentation for our files and to send to the client

2.  What are some examples where it is NOT acceptable to cancel a contract?

Personality conflicts with other staff at the hospital. Any other reason unless nurse feels license/patient safety in jeopardy and a resolution cannot be found.

3. If a traveler does terminate a contract, what are the repercussions to the travel agency?

The majority of our contracts require either a 2 week or 30 day notice to cancel without penalty.   If proper notice is not given, we face fines ranging from $1500 up to $5200, depending on the facility.

4.  If a traveler does terminate a contract, what are some outcomes for the traveler?

Depending on why the contract was cancelled, and whether or not the nurse gave notice, Tailored could DNU the nurse from all further travel assignments. The facility may or may not DNU from further contracts.

5. Does the traveler get “black listed” with that particular company?

If proper notice is given, or if there is an extreme family emergency, or the nurse themselves  are ill, the facilities and Tailored Healthcare will not DNU the traveler.

6.  Can a traveler ever work for that facility again?

If proper notice is given, yes. If proper notice is not given and there is no emergent situation, no.  The facility would not use this traveler again.

7. Will the traveler have to repay the travel agency for wages, stipend, reimbursements, etc?

We never take away any earned income.  However, if the nurse leaves the assignment, there could be penalties passed along to the nurse if he/she left without cause.

8.   If an unforeseen personal emergency occurs, can a traveler take a short “Leave of Absence” to tend to the emergency without canceling the contract?

This would be up to the  facility.

9.  Will canceling a contract remain on the travelers profile even if they would switch travel agencies?

Depending on why the contract is cancelled.  If cancelled without an emergent situation, then yes, the facilities will DNU no matter what agency the traveler works with.

10. If a traveler is considering or decides to terminate the contract, how should he/she handle the process?

If there is an emergent situation, the traveler should consult with their immediate supervisor and also notify their recruiter immediately.

We would again like to thank Pamela Mackey at Tailored Healthcare Staffing for taking the time to provide the answers to the questions above. It’s important to read your contract carefully in regards to termination penalties. Each travel agency has their own policy in place. You may be financially responsible to reimburse the agency for housing costs and other expenses. If you feel you have put your best foot forward in resolving a conflict or there is an unavoidable illness or emergency, contact your recruiter to find out what your next step should be.

If you have any experience with canceling your contract and would like to share your story, please tell us about it in the comments below.

  • Dawn Smith

    Just be careful using these if you’re flying…the added weight can add up quickly.

    • Brad Crawford

      Good point. They really do get heavy quick