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Travel Nursing Crisis Assignments: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


When it comes to travel nursing crisis assignments, there’s one famous movie quote that comes to mind.

“SHOW! ME! THE! MONEY!”

–Rod Tidwell as played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., in a little film from 1996 known as Jerry Maguire. You may have heard of it…?

Hey, how about those crisis positions, huh? Good golly! Have you Googled travel nursing jobs recently? Have you spent roughly three minutes or longer on any of the travel nursing social media pages? If so, then you understand that there are some unheard of pay rates out there right now.


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You may be saying to yourself after seeing these jobs posted online, “Pay rates that are double or triple what they normally are for travel nurses right now? Heck to the YEAH! Sign me up, Buttercup!” And, understandably so! While this descriptive word has grown tiresome over the last several months, this travel nursing job market really is unprecedented. With literally thousands of jobs available out there with the highest rates I’ve ever seen in my dozen or so years of recruiting, it would seem that now is the best time it’s ever been to be a travel nurse.

But, as with everything in life that seems almost too good to be true, there is always a trade-off. And in the case of travel nursing crisis assignments, there are several trade-offs. My intent with this post is not to dissuade you from pursuing crisis assignments. Rather, I want to make sure that you have a pretty good sense of what you might be signing up for when you sign that crisis contract dotted line.

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering crisis or rapid response assignments:

Competition is steep.

The majority of travel nursing positions are not crisis positions, despite what might appear to be the case online. (Remember, recruiters are usually cherry-picking the jobs to post on social media to attract as much interest as possible.) Even in a non-crisis market, the highest paying positions always attract the most interest, meaning you’re likely competing with dozens of other candidates for the same positions. Be prepared to play the waiting game if you submit to a crisis position.

Not only that, but if you have any kind of requirements as far as time off needs, scheduling requirements (like blocked shifts, etc.), not willing to float, etc., be prepared to have your profile passed on in favor of those profiles that don’t have any such requirements or requests.


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Crisis assignments are highly volatile.

If you’re worried at all about having your contract cancelled out from under you, I’d definitely proceed with caution on travel nursing crisis assignments. Because they offer such crazy high rates, crisis travelers are very expensive and burdensome to hospitals’ bottom lines. As soon as there is an opportunity for the hospital to relieve that financial burden (i.e., census drops), the crisis travelers will generally be the first to go. Most of the time, you won’t get much advance notice if this happens.

Additionally, crisis travelers are often expected to drop everything and GO at a moment’s notice. They’re generally expected to start as soon as possible, often within a week or less. This can be very stressful especially if you haven’t had much experience with traveling and aren’t sure where to start when it comes to housing, transportation, licensing, etc.

The working conditions can be challenging, to say the least.

Crisis pay almost always equals crisis work environments. Crisis travelers are typically required to float, and we’re not talking about an occasional “if necessary” kind of situation. They are floated often, sometimes every four hours, sometimes to other facilities in the same region. You can almost guarantee that you’ll be floating to COVID units or working in them exclusively. The nurse to patient ratios can get dangerous at times. There is often a lack of adequate PPE or supplies. You may be expected to work 48 hours (or more!) each week. Stressful and exhausting work environments also increase the chances of mistakes or errors being made. Some people just aren’t willing to take that risk with their licenses and their own personal well-being.


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Look, I completely understand the appeal of the pay and the shorter contracts. We’ve all had a tough year and some extra cushion in the bank account would probably help solve a lot of our problems. Travel nursing crisis assignments can be a great opportunity to capitalize on the current market. However, I would definitely take these trade-offs seriously and make sure that you’re spending enough time processing the drawbacks with both yourself and your loved ones. There are plenty of other assignments out there that aren’t the bright and shiny “crisis paying” assignments, but they are still offering elevated rates in most situations, and they will offer more stability and protections for you.

Regardless of which route you decide to go, be sure to make time to take care of yourself. The old adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” rings true. If you have questions about travel assignments, crisis or otherwise, please reach out! We’ll be glad to help provide you with any information you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

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Charity Crawford

Senior Healthcare Recruiter at Axis Medical Staffing, Inc.
Charity has been in the travel nurse industry in one form or another since 2008! Despite her years of hard work and advocacy on behalf of her Rock Star travelers, she doesn’t look a day over 25! (According to her, anyway.) A hardcore traveler herself, Charity recently spent 2.5 years abroad visiting several countries. She taught English in Thailand for a year and volunteered in Peru. She loves to swap traveling stories and share helpful hints and tips for her fellow traveling addicts!
Charity Crawford