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Strike Nursing Contracts: What You Need To Know

Aug 31, 2022
Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C

If you’re new to nursing, you’ve probably never heard of strike nursing. It isn’t a commonly advertised position but can be a very lucrative option for nurses, especially travel nurses. While a nurse strike is very rare, it’s possible and has been happening more following the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, there were 14 large nurse union strikes in the United States (U.S.) and so far in 2022, there have already been 10. 

When nurses go on strike, it obviously creates staffing problems, which is where strike nurses come in. When nurses vote to strike, they give a certain amount of notice before striking.  During that time, strike nurses are brought in, trained at the facility, and begin a contract to cover shifts while the staff nurses strike. 

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what this means, what the contracts look like, and review some of the benefits of working as a strike nurse. 

What is strike nursing?

As mentioned above, strike nursing is a group of contracted nurses brought in to cover for nurses who are on strike. These nurses can be from an agency like a travel agency, or independent nurses working their own contracts. 

 Strike nurses are typically provided time to train at the hospital, sometimes even by the staff nurses themselves  before they go on strike. How long a strike nurse will be needed can vary from one day to an indefinite amount of time. In this case, strike nurses would be kept on staff as long as needed. 

What is a strike nursing contract?

When an agency is notified of an impending strike, they will begin to notify their staff to see who is available to work on short notice. The start date is usually within the next three to seven days, which includes time to get to the location. 

The contract itself will often include payment details for the costs of travel, housing, and transportation as needed. Strike nurses are also expected to work at least 48 hours, as specified in the contract, and as many as 60 hours per week while covering the contract. 

The compensation is also high. Each contract will contain the details, but can be as high as $2500 per week. 

The contracts may contain the time period for which they will be needed, if it is known. If the strike is indefinite, there may not be an end date. Sometimes in the case of an indefinite strike, more strike nurses will be brought in, with each nurse working fewer hours.  

What are the benefits of strike nursing?

Benefits are endless to working as a strike nurse and some of these benefits include: 

  • Compensation: As mentioned above, compensation can be as high as $2500 a week, which doesn’t even include the covered housing, travel, and transportation.
  • Pay out: If the strike ends early, which can often be the case when the organization reaches a deal with the staff nurses, strike nurses will be paid out their full expected amount of the contract, whether they were needed or not.
  • Increased experience and exposure: As a strike nurse, you will be put to work on whatever unit needs you. This gives you a great chance to work in different areas of nursing! 
  • Travel: As a strike nurse, you’ll also be able to travel. Because of the rarity of nurse strikes, you’re not likely to travel to the same place twice. You’ll be able to travel all over the country, possibly even around the world, to cover for strikes. 

What are the difficulties associated with strike nursing?

While there are a lot of benefits, strike nursing does have its downside. Some negatives for working as a strike nurse include: 

  • The working conditions: You will likely have a heavy patient load and work with other agency nurses who, like you, aren’t familiar with the organization. You’ll also be working long hours and more often to cover for staffing needs. 
  • Crossing the picket line: It can be difficult to walk past the picket line of nurses as you’re going in for your shift!
  • Quick changes: You will likely not get much notice to start the contract and you may not have much notice when it ends. This can be hard for a lot of people, especially those with families. 

What does strike nursing actually look like?

As a strike nurse, you’ll be contacted and flown to the assignment quickly, typically within a few days. You’ll be provided lodging, such as an apartment or hotel, but you may have a roommate (usually another strike nurse). You’ll likely have to start working as soon as you arrive. 

Shifts will be long and frequent. Some nurses will work up to 24 hour shifts at a time and are usually working up to 60 hours per week to cover the staff. Expect a lot of long, hard shifts. Don’t plan for much while you’re there other than working and sleeping. 

Onboarding and training will vary based on the organization. If the nurses have given a lot of notice to their strike, and the agency has gotten you there quickly, you might be lucky to get a few orientation shifts. Otherwise, you’ll be put on the unit and expected to start and learn as you go. 

You may not have extra help from things like assistants or techs, especially if they’re striking as well. Organizations are unlikely to fill these positions during a strike because of the high cost. Their tasks will likely fall to you.

Although it will be hard work, you’ll leave well compensated. 

How to find a strike nursing contract

Does this sound like something you would be interested in doing? You have to thrive in sudden change and love to do so. If that sounds like you, check out working as a strike nurse today. Log in or sign up for Trusted Health for more information and job opportunities!