Travel Nursing and Holiday Time off

“It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeaaaaarrrrrrr!”

(Count your blessings that you can’t actually hear me singing that, by the way. Yikes.)

Yes, indeed; the holidays – whether we are ready for them or not – are quickly approaching. For us travel nursing recruiters, that means one thing for certain:

Holiday time off requests galore!

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It’s been a heck of a year for everyone, especially healthcare workers who have been on the front lines for the past several months. Naturally, a little R&R with families and loved ones may seem extra important this time of year. And, it’s well-deserved. Even in non-pandemic holiday seasons, it’s common for travel nurses to take time off around the holidays.  

If you’ve planned to take time off already, then enjoy the heck out of it. You’ve earned it. If you’re on the fence about it, allow me to offer some pros and cons of opting to work over the holidays. It may end up swaying your decision one way or another.

Pros of working through the holiday season:

  • A good chunk of hospitals and facilities allow us to bill extra for holiday hours. Accordingly, and as applicable, we will pay you extra for any hours worked during client-recognized holidays. Check with your recruiter to find out what the holiday pay rate might be for your assignment, as it will differ from facility to facility.
  • Sometimes hospitals and facilities offer additional incentives to travelers who are working holidays, such as extra cash, potlucks, gifts, etc.

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  • Your travel nursing profile will be that much more appealing to hiring managers. They typically prefer candidates who are willing to work holidays or request minimal to no time off. This preference will come in especially handy when you’re applying to highly desirable positions, such as those in fun, touristy locations, or those offering elevated pay rates.
  • If you work your contract through even just the first couple of weeks in January, you’re going to avoid the inevitable “bottleneck” effect that happens this time every year. Tons of travelers end their contracts before the holidays and expect to return to work first thing in January. However, most hospital management staff are returning to work themselves at that time. There can be a lag in needs getting posted, budgets getting approved to bring on travelers, etc. As a result, demand tends to exceed the supply in early January. It’s not uncommon for a traveler who wanted to start right after the New Year holiday to end up starting closer to the end of January.

Cons of working through the holiday season:

  • If your contract goes past the beginning of January and you haven’t already requested the time off in advance, it’s likely that the hospital will expect you to work at least 2 of the 3 major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day).
  • If you’re accustomed to observing the holidays only on their calendar days and you’ve followed a tradition every year with friends and/or family back home, then it can be a weird and sometimes lonely transition to celebrate at your assignment during different days or with different people.

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Travelers who work through the holidays will often find inventive ways to celebrate while also capitalizing on the extra pay and other incentives for working through January. This could mean they celebrate Christmas with their families the week before, or they fly a couple loved ones to their assignment locations so that they can still share some time together. Others will make friends with the other travelers in their units and plan something fun, like a dinner or outing together. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, lots of travel and holiday plans have been cancelled or have been changed this year. So, it might make more sense for you to work through the holidays this time around, anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you make the time to take care of yourself. As cliched as it has become, this really has been an unprecedented year. You’ve worked very hard to help thousands of us heal and stay healthy, often in very challenging working conditions. We hope that however you opt to spend the holidays, that you know how much you are appreciated!

Let me know if I can help answer any questions about travel nursing during the holidays or holiday time off. Stay safe and healthy out there!

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Charity Crawford
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