Why Rates can Change Mid-Assignment and How to Handle it
One of the unique and lesser known aspects of travel nursing is that contracts are actually more in-line with the idea of an “assignment agreement.” These contracts, or work agreements, are generally created with the stipulation that rates, which drive your compensation, can change at any point during an assignment. While this seems counterintuitive to the idea of how a contract works, it is a common inclusion in travel nursing assignments across the U.S.
These types of rate-change scenarios can be not only surprising, but also can have considerable personal and/or financial implications. After all, no one wants to book a flight, secure housing, and travel to a destination only to learn a few weeks later that there will be a change to the costs associated with the job.
At Trusted, we believe in helping you understand pay and compensation as clearly as possible so you can make informed decisions at every step of your travel nursing career, including the possibility of a mid-assignment rate change.
How are rates set? Why and when do they change?
Rates are set by the healthcare facilities, sometimes with guidance from Managed Service Providers based on what trends they may be seeing in the market. Thus, they can fluctuate based on supply and demand.
This means that when healthcare facilities urgently need additional nurses or are having trouble attracting them such as during a surge or at times of high census during winter needs, they may increase their rates in order to compete. Conversely, rates will usually lower in response to a decreased need or an abundance of nurses willing to work the opportunities. This can happen anytime during your assignment.
But what about the contract I sign?
‘Contracts’, which is the typical term in the travel industry, are actually employment agreements. The employment agreements lay out the terms and conditions of the offered employment and also indicate that the employment is at-will, meaning that the employee is free to resign at will at any time, with or without notice or cause and the employer may terminate the employee’s employment at will at any time, with or without notice or cause.
When a rate changes, rather than the terms of the employment agreement changing mid-assignment, what’s actually happening is that the existing employment agreement is no longer being offered, or is not valid, and an employment agreement with new terms, or rates, is being offered. This is why when any details of the employment change, such as unit, shift type, hours per week, or rates, you are issued a new agreement to sign.
How to Handle Rate Changes
Assess the impact and implications
Getting news that your compensation will be changing can be surprising and upsetting. Rightfully so - however, we suggest taking some time to assess the situation before reacting, especially emotionally, to carefully consider the impact and your options. While decisions are typically requested in a fairly short time frame - sometimes within 24 to 48 hours, the first step is to ensure you take the time to assess the new terms and understand how they may impact you.
Things to consider:
- Re-evaluate the current market trends and rates to properly set expectations
- How will this change impact your wages versus your stipends?
- What are your options for alternative employment?
- How much of the assignment do you have remaining?
Make a decision that’s best for you
You may choose to accept the new rate terms or decline them. Because rate changes result in termination of an existing employment agreement, you have the option to either agree to the new proposed rate by signing a new employment agreement or choose to decline it and not sign the new employment agreement. Declining it may result in termination of your current employment on the date when the existing terms are no longer applicable. Of course, every situation is unique and may be handled differently.
The decision to decline the rate change and terminate your assignment will not typically result in any repercussions or disciplinary action with your agency, who should advocate for you to ensure the same is true with the facility and their vendor. Regardless of an agency advocating, the ultimate decision of impact on each relationship is up to parties involved. Your agency may not consider termination after a rate change as having any impact on your relationship with them but the MSP or facility may decide differently. Ultimately impacts on relationships after these types of situations work both ways, just like a facility may decide not to work with a nurse again in the future, the nurses can also choose not to work with the healthcare system again if they are not satisfied.
However, it doesn’t have to simply be black and white. You may consider accepting the new terms and signing a new employment agreement to ensure you have continued employment and income while actively seeking an alternative employment. Keep in mind that even a new opportunity, depending on the nature of it, may also be subject to changes in compensation. Additionally, it is best practice to provide at least two weeks’ notice once you have alternative employment.
For a more in-depth explanation of rates and compensation, see the Trusted Guide to Bill Rate & Compensation
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