Extending Your Travel Nurse Contract

Mar 10, 2021
The Trusted Team

It’s never too early to start thinking about extending your travel nurse contract. 

Picture this...

After a couple of stellar weeks at the facility, you realize that you love your current assignment. The opportunities you have to develop your clinical skills, your awesome coworkers and boss, the city you’re in, the pay―it’s well worth the not-so-distant memory of applying for jobs, moving cities, and pushing through onboarding and orientation. Really, the only complaint you have is that you’ve only got 13 weeks to soak it all in!

Or do you?

Sometimes, a medical facility will offer and/or approve the option for a travel nurse to extend their contract there. This means that there is a second contract drawn up that allows the travel nurse to work at the facility for an additional number of weeks. Hurrah!

So, if you realize that you haven’t quite had your fill of your current assignment and wouldn’t mind spending a little more time there, read on! We'll walking you through how to ask for an extension on your next travel nurse assignment.  

Extending Travel Nurse Contracts Is a Win-Win(-Win?)

Simply put, extending travel nurse contracts makes life easier for everyone involved.

As a travel nurse, you don’t have to worry about the logistics and costs involved in finding a new job, packing up and moving to a new location, acclimating yourself in your new environment, or going through a new set of onboarding and orientation tasks. 

The facility and nurse staffing agency also benefit whenever you successfully extend your travel nurse contract. They save time finding a new candidate for this position, finding a new position for you, and making arrangements for the application process. It's also easier for everyone involved because you do not have to go through the onboarding process again!

Hospitals also get to skip going through unit orientation for yet another turn, which means more time to spend where it matters―with patients, their families, and each other. 

If all this talk about extending travel assignments is getting you excited, then keep reading! We’ll show you how it’s done and what to expect.

Thinking about Travel Nurse Contract Extensions

We’ve found that once they’ve had enough time to settle into the daily work rhythm, most travel nurses quickly get a feel for what the city or town has to offer, how the flow of their unit works, their own competency on the job, and their general satisfaction with the assignment. 

From there, it isn’t hard for them to envision how they’ll feel about the rest of the assignment, including whether it’s a place where they’d like to extend an assignment. 

And this gut feeling is super important: once you’re sure that your assignment is a great fit for your personal and professional needs, you can start laying some groundwork to make sure that the process of extending your travel nurse contract goes off as smoothly as possible. 

So, How Do I Know If My Assignment Is a Great Fit?

The short answer is simply that it really depends on you! 

Different travel nurses will have different priorities in terms of what they’re looking for in an assignment, but as long as an assignment is hitting all (or even most) of the factors that are most important to you, it’s worth looking into the possibility to extend your travel nurse contract at that location. 

That being said, there are certainly some questions that all travel nurses should ask themselves before committing to extending an assignment:

  • Do you love the work that you’re doing on a daily basis? 
  • What factors make your day-to-day work rewarding? Are those factors unique to this assignment, or likely to be found at other locations and on other assignments?
  • Do you enjoy working with your manager and current coworkers? 
  • Do you enjoy working with the patient population at your current medical facility? Are you sufficiently challenged and/or fulfilled developing your competencies and expertise as it relates to their care?
  • What aspects of your current travel nurse assignment do you not enjoy? Is it possible to make changes in your contract to fix these issues? If not, could you tolerate these aspects for the duration of your extension? 
  • Do you enjoy exploring your current city/town? Are there new activities or experiences that you can explore there? 
  • Have you built a social circle in your current city/town? Will they be there for the duration of your extension? 
  • Are you planning on adding to your social circle or deepening your social ties to the area? How would extending your travel nurse contract affect that?
  • Are you interested in any other cities or towns? What are the pros and cons of extending your current assignment versus taking up a new assignment at a medical facility in a different location?
  • Do you have any upcoming holidays, plans, or obligations that will require you to take time off either before or during an extension? How will they affect you if you choose to extend your travel nurse contract? 
  • Does taking an extension at your current assignment jeopardize your tax home status or otherwise pose an issue to the way you intend to file your taxes?

In addition to these questions, you’ll want to revisit your goals as a travel nurse and the reasons that you took this assignment in the first place. It’s important to understand whether those goals and reasons would still hold true for you if you decide to pursue an extension of your current travel nurse assignment; going through this mental exercise can help you avoid losing sight of your original reasoning when it comes to your next steps.

How to Ask for an Extension on a Travel Nurse Assignment

Once you’ve determined that your current assignment has extension potential, it’s time to let your recruiter (or Nurse Advocate) know. Like we said, it’s never too early to jumpstart that conversation!

We understand that some travel nurses aren’t comfortable with the idea of bringing up the “extensions” talk with their recruiter and facility, and for valid reasons! 

  • Isn’t this for the recruiter to ask me about? 
  • Will it come off as an inappropriate or needy request for a job?
  • What if the facility still needs time to make up its mind about granting an extension? Or what if the facility’s already decided not to extend my travel nurse contract?! 
  • How do I even broach the subject?

Know that there’s no serious downside to inquiring about an extension on your travel nurse contract. The worst you can get back is either a “no” or a “not yet” from the facility. 

That being said, there are some serious upsides. If your position will be open after you complete your assignment, you’re essentially getting ahead of the application curve by proactively asking about extending your current travel nursing job.

And as we mentioned, having you agree to extend your assignment is a lot easier on the folks at the medical facility than going through the process of sourcing, hiring, and signing contracts with new travel nurses all over again. So if your unit still has a need and you’ve been doing an amazing job, they’d much rather have you stay put than find someone new. 

So reach out to your travel nurse recruiter and have the “extension” talk! 

Not Sure How to Ask for an Extension?

You’re welcome to take inspiration from this template below:

Hi [recruiter]! This is [name] - I hope you’re doing well! I just wanted to give you a call and let you know that I’m really enjoying my current assignment and would like to look into the possibility of extending. Would you be able to reach out to [facility] on my behalf to figure out whether extending my contract here is possible? And if so, what the next steps would be in moving that process along?

Your recruiter will more than likely be overjoyed to hear that you’re in love with your assignment and considering an extension. And at this point, they’ll reach out to the facility to figure out whether they’re open to beginning a conversation with you about extending your travel nurse assignment there. 

Sometimes, medical facilities may not be able to give you an answer right away. But hey, at least now your intentions are on everyone’s radar, and you can always periodically check in to make sure that you’re still front-of-mind as an option should your position open up again. 

Other times, you showing early interest is all it takes to get the ball rolling! And if that’s the case, it’s also time to start planning your negotiations! 

two men shaking hands in front of white wall travel nurse contract

Negotiating Your Contract Extension

Wait, negotiations? Again!?

Yes, but it’s much less painful time―we promise! 

While extensions are meant to be much simpler logistically for everyone involved, you should also view them as a second chance to review the terms of your contract and ensure that you’ll be happy continuing to work under your current conditions. No job is perfect, but think of negotiations over your travel nurse contract extension as your chance to get just a little closer to that ideal.   

1. Terms Worth Negotiating

There’s never a guarantee that an agency or facility will renegotiate new terms for an extension, but as you can tell by the information we’ve discussed so far, they’re definitely worth a try! What terms should you consider adjusting when it comes to your extension?

2. Shift + Scheduling

Depending on availability and need on your unit, it may be possible for you to change up your schedule. Do you prefer the day shift or the night shift? Would you rather 7-on-7-off days or more frequent changes between days off and on? Are there other special day-to-day scheduling requirements that you’d like to implement?

3. Start Date

Just because you’re extending your travel nurse contract doesn’t mean you need to start the day after you end your original assignment. If you want to take a break before getting back to work, ask for a later start date! (Just be sure to consult with your recruiter as to if or how your employee benefits will be affected.) 

4. Duration

It’s important to know that while you can arrange a 13-week extension, it’s also super common for extensions to be set up for shorter periods of time - even as little as a week! While some travel nurses use extensions as a second assignment, others have used them to hold them over until another assignment with a later-than-ideal start date is ready. Be sure to negotiate a duration that works best for you. 

5. Time Off

If you want to guarantee a certain date to yourself, have that time off written into your contract. Carefully consider any holidays or personal obligations that may fall within the next 13 weeks and how you can arrange your clinical obligations around them. 

6. Additional Terms

Extension negotiation are the perfect time to visit (or revisit) areas of your assignment that you’re less than pleased with. Whether it be floating expectations or your housing arrangements, it’s worth asking what (if anything) can be done to make your next stretch of time at that facility more comfortable, satisfying, or fulfilling for you. 

When thinking about additional terms to negotiate, it’s important to remember that certain aspects of the job (like your coworkers or patient population, the equipment and procedures employed, and the uniform requirements) are non-negotiable.

While we’re here for you re-examining your terms, we definitely also recommend that you think about whether the qualities that irk you about your current assignment are truly adjustable. 

If you realize that there are things about your assignment that you can’t re-negotiate, but they’re severe enough to lower your quality of life and hinder your professional development, then it’s a sign that you should be focused on finding a new facility to work at, rather than trying to receive an extension from your current one.  

One More Tip for Negotiating

Always have a plan B. We previously discussed the importance of making yourself scarce by working with multiple nurse staffing agencies when looking for travel nurse assignments. As a quick refresher, working with multiple travel nurse agencies in your job search can give you better leverage in negotiating contract terms and reduce the risk of being left unemployed if a contract fell through. 

Turns out, the same thing applies here! 

While you certainly don’t need to engage in a full-fledged job search, you’ll want to be sure that regardless of how the extension and negotiation processes go, you’ll have options. This can be as simple as figuring out which other agencies are currently working with travel nurses at your current facility and asking them for quotes based on your plans for extension.

You can even extend your search to other travel nurse agencies working with facilities in the area.

And yes, if you do end up taking a peek at what other travel nurse agencies have to offer, you can (and should) give your current recruiter a heads-up. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to squeeze out a better deal for yourself. 

A Final Note on Extensions: Why Facilities Sometimes Say “No”

Although we’ve walked you through all the steps you should take to make the most of an opportunity to extend a travel nurse contract at a medical facility, know that it’s not uncommon for a travel nurse to not be able to extend their contract. Facilities can choose not to offer an extension to a travel nurse for a variety of reasons. 

Perhaps it's because:

  • The medical facility’s need for travel nurses was only temporary. This is often the case for facilities that are undergoing EMR conversions, witness seasonal shortages, or have recently opened new wings or buildings that are initially understaffed. 
  • The budget for your unit was not approved. That is, your unit may not be able to afford paying for additional help in the near future. 
  • It’s unfortunately based on the experience that your unit has had with you as an employee. 

Usually, in these cases, the feeling of wanting to end the professional relationship is mutual. But if this news seems unexpected and out of the blue, the best way to move forward is to hold your head up, make the most of the remainder of your current travel nurse assignment, and try even harder on your next one.

Confronting your unit manager or other coworkers on your unit about the decision won’t help anyone involved, and it’s always best to leave each medical facility you work at on a good note. 

Remember: even if you weren’t granted an extension, this doesn’t mean that you may not need to rely on them for a recommendation or good word down the line! 

Finally, while this news can be disappointing, it also serves as a great reminder to always have a plan B. Extending a travel nurse contract, while usually an ideal situation, is by no means guaranteed. Having another option underway not only helps with your future travel nurse contract negotiations, it gives you peace of mind should life throw an unpleasant curveball your way. 

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