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13-Week Nursing Contracts: What Are The Pros And Cons?

Last week, we explored some of the historical reasons why travel nursing contracts in the US tend to be 13 weeks in length. Whether it’s down to traditional accommodation contracts, FMLA leave, or orientation periods, the 13-week contract remains a popular option in travel nursing. 

Despite this, there’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to solving staffing needs for both acute and long-term care facilities. Here, we take a look at some of the pros and cons of hiring nurses on 13-week contracts to help you make a more informed decision. 

Pros 

  • Access To Quality Nurses. No facility should compromise on quality when they need nursing staff at short notice. Luckily, travel nurses are often provided through a staffing agency that calls upon a database of top-quality nurses, whose skills and experience have been vetted. This means that they can supply the right people to suit your facility and specific needs right away. 

  • Super Fast Orientation. Because travel nurses are highly experienced and used to navigating different workplaces, they do not require an extensive orientation period to get up-to-speed. For example, it typically takes between 12 and 14 weeks to train a new permanent member of staff, while travel nurses expect no more than a 24-40 hour orientation. 

  • Staffing Flexibility. All healthcare facilities experience fluctuations in staffing needs. Travel nurses can work precisely when you need them, whether that’s to cover absence and orientation periods or accommodate seasonal demands. Additionally, if you hire travel nurses and decide that permanent members of staff would be more suitable, you’re not locked into lengthy contracts. 

Cons 

  • Continual Turnover. A constant stream of new faces can be a strain on your permanent staff who may feel as though they’re continually training travel nurses and are unable to form lasting bonds. This lack of relationship-building can also have a negative impact on patient care, and could, therefore, lead to poor HCAHPS scores.

  • Cost. For the convenience of having highly-qualified nurses available on-demand, facilities pay a higher hourly rate. Additionally, travel nurses are increasingly looking for tax incentives that can push their rate up even further in comparison to hiring permanent staff or international nurses. 

  • Drop-Off Rate. Unfortunately, if we compare travel nurses with international nurses, there’s a higher drop-off rate of 9 percent compared to 2 percent. 

  • Commitment. While travel nurses are undoubtedly hard workers, they know they’re moving on after 13 weeks and so tend to be less invested in a facility’s long-term vision and the local community in comparison to permanent staff. 

What Are The Alternatives? 

More healthcare facilities are going global and using established staffing agencies to secure the very best international nurses who will help them to reduce costs and improve patient care. Find more about international nurses and other staffing alternatives by downloading our FREE guide: “Alternatives to the Traditional 13-week Assignment: Why more US healthcare facilities are turning their back on traditional short nursing contracts.”


Find out more about international nurses and other staffing alternatives in our free guide - 'Alternatives to the traditional 13-week assignment'.

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