Many travel nurses, and particularly new travel nurses, wonder if they are required to accept travel nursing job offers. Of course, you never have to do anything. However, different circumstances warrant different considerations and it’s always good to have an idea of what to expect. So, let’s take a look at a few common scenarios and potential considerations for each.
Scenario 1: The Travel Nurse hasn’t Accepted the Offer Yet
Sometimes, travelers wonder if they are required to accept an assignment just by virtue of receiving the offer. In this scenario, the traveler has not indicated in any way that they are accepting the assignment. However, they still question whether or not they’re obligated to accept. They may feel obligated simply because they agreed to be submitted for the assignment. Or they may feel this way because the recruiter said something that directly insinuated or implied that accepting the offer was required.
The simple fact of the matter is that travelers are under no obligation whatsoever to accept an assignment in this scenario. It’s quite common to decide during the interview that an assignment isn’t a good fit. Job offers are declined all the time. Hiring managers are used to it. Therefore, there should be no ramifications from the hospital.
The situation with the agency is a little trickier. If this is your first declination with the agency, then there really shouldn’t be any ramifications. If there are, then you might want to reconsider your relationship with the agency. We rarely say this at BluePipes, but applying undue pressure on travelers is unwarranted.
However, if you build up a reputation of declining offers with a particular agency, then there could be ramifications. It is true that declined offers can strain the relationship between agencies and their client hospitals. Additionally, a lot of work can go into submitting a candidate and securing the interview. As a result, the agency may decide that they are not the best fit for the candidate and sever ties if the candidate repeatedly declines offers.
Scenario 2: Accepting Before the Interview
Sometimes, travel nursing candidates accept a job offer before the interview even takes place. How is this possible? Well, many recruiters and agencies take an aggressive approach to the recruitment process.
These agencies and recruiters attempt to get a candidate’s agreement on every possible aspect of an assignment before the interview takes place or before they even submit the candidate’s profile for consideration. The recruiter will discuss pay, travel arrangements, potential start dates, requested time off, housing, specifics regarding the hospital and anything else they can think of. Then, the recruiter will ask the candidate if there is any reason that they would refuse an offer if one is made. If the candidate says no, then the recruiter may state that a verbal agreement has been reached for the assignment to be accepted.
This sequence of events is tactically designed to make the traveler feel as though they have accepted the assignment. Note how they get the traveler to admit that there is nothing that would prevent them from accepting the assignment. And then the “verbal contract” tops it off.
We think this is a shaky approach for agencies and recruiters to take. It can be bad for both the agency and the traveler. This is because there really is no definitive way for a healthcare professional to know if they want a job until they’ve spoken with a manager and gotten all their concerns regarding working conditions addressed. Even if the interview takes place with a Vendor Management Service as opposed to the hiring manager, the healthcare professional may still learn about certain aspects of the assignment that will not work for them.
Moreover, there is very little chance that the recruiter will cover every last detail about the working conditions and compensation package during the pre-screening process. For example, they may not cover the guaranteed hours policy, the exact housing situation, or the scheduling policy at the hospital. And only the hospital can approve requested time off.
This is very important because in order for a legitimate verbal contract to exist, all the terms of the contract must have been covered and agreed to by both parties. Moreover, it’s very difficult for verbal contracts to be proven in a court of law. And that’s exactly what will have to happen if the agency intends to hold the traveler accountable in any way. It’s highly unlikely that an agency will ever take a traveler to court over a broken verbal agreement. The cost is simply too high and the chances of winning are too low.
So when an agency uses this tactic to coerce a traveler to accept an assignment, it will backfire a fair percentage of the time. The fallout will usually find its way onto social media where the damage will be amplified. Now, covering all of the details about the assignment prior to submitting the candidate is an excellent policy for agencies to maintain. It can only serve to increase the agency’s acceptance rate. However, agencies should stop short of the verbal agreement tactic. Or, at least stop short of using the verbal agreement to pressure the traveler into accepting the assignment if the traveler expresses doubts after the interview.
That said, travelers will undoubtedly come across agencies and recruiters who utilize this approach. It’s highly unlikely that there will be any ramifications with the hospital if the offer is declined. However, there is a slight possibility of ramifications with the agency. In the worst case scenario, the agency may “blacklist” the traveler . While this is highly unlikely, it is a possibility nonetheless.
This may be okay with the traveler. After all, you may not want to work with a company that utilizes these tactics anyway. However, be careful with the largest agencies in the business. They have Vendor Management contracts with many different hospitals and getting on their blacklists could prevent you from working at these hospitals even through another agency.
Scenario 3: Accepting Verbally with the Hiring Manager
Hiring managers often ask travelers if they will accept the assignment during the interview. This catches many travelers off guard, especially if the interview went well and the traveler believes they’ve found a good fit. In such cases, it’s a good idea to let the hiring manager know that you are highly likely to accept the assignment but need to cover some final details with the agency before offering an official acceptance.
That said, it’s quite common for travelers to accept the assignment on the spot. This can cause a problem in some cases. As mentioned previously, there may be many issues that haven’t been fully covered during the pre-screening process. For example, the traveler may come to find that the agency has a missed shift penalty that is unacceptable, or that certain expenses are not going to be covered. Or, you may find that acceptable housing is not available in the area. In the worst case, the agency may alter the compensation package because they made a mistake with the original quote.
This puts you in a tough spot. You’ve just agreed to a job offer at a hospital that, for all intents and purposes, you’d really like to work with. So you don’t want to do anything to offend them. And it’s true that if you choose to decline the offer, then it’s possible that the hiring manager remembers this in case you are submitted for a future assignment.
However, you haven’t signed a contract at this point so there should be no legal ramifications to be concerned with. Moreover, you haven’t given the agency a verbal agreement yet either. Therefore, there should be no chance that they’ve secured housing or incurred any other expenses that they wouldn’t have otherwise incurred. Even if they have, that’s not your fault.
While the risk of negative ramifications is clearly a bit higher with this scenario, the choice to accept or decline the offer is ultimately yours to make. When making this decision, many travelers wonder if it’s okay to contact the manager directly to let them know why they ended up having to decline the offer. Whether or not this is good idea depends on the circumstances. Some hospitals and healthcare systems have strict policies against travelers calling managers directly. However, the fact that you’ve already interviewed typically negates those policies. In many cases, the manager will even let you know that you can contact them with any questions or concerns. Every situation will be different so the choice is ultimately yours to make.
Scenario 4: Accepting an Assignment in Writing
Finally, it’s also possible to accept an offer in writing and find yourself in a situation where you’re considering backing out. Of course, backing out is much different than declining an offer. In fact, we’ve discussed backing out in great detail in a previous blog post. So why are we discussing it here?
There are certain scenarios in which backing-out can be much more like declining an offer than actually backing-out. For example, if the agency can only find housing that is much more expensive than they had budgeted for, then they may alter the compensation package. Or, they may have trouble finding any housing at all.
It’s also possible that circumstances at the hospital change. Perhaps something happens that causes the shift to be changed after the offer was accepted. Or perhaps the EMR conversion that you were needed to fill in for gets pushed back so they need to postpone your start date.
In all of these cases, the terms of the contract will need to be changed. As a result, the old contract will be void and a new one will need to be signed. Therefore, you’re right back to square one.
Agencies and hospitals should be open to the possibility that the traveler will decline the new offer. However, many agencies will still apply pressure to accept the new offer. In such cases, it’s important to remember that there is no obligation to accept the offer if the terms have changed. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
Regardless of the scenario, there are two things you should consider before declining any offer. First, consider what your best alternative is if you were to decline the offer. Do you have another job offer on the table or another source of income? If not, will it truly be worth it to decline the offer?
Second, try to determine how far along in the process the agency is. Have they paid for any medical screening or certification costs? Have they secured housing? If so, then they may have reason to be more adamant that you accept the assignment. However, if they jumped the gun on these expenses, then you shouldn’t be held responsible.
We hope you found this discussion helpful. As always, we’d love to receive your questions and comments or hear about your experiences with this issue by posting in the comments section below.