Beyond 13 Weeks: Extending Your Assignment
By Melissa Wirkus, associate editor
While traditional travel nursing assignments are typically 13 weeks in length, traveling RNs often have the option to extend their assignment and stay put for many more weeks or months—sometimes even years!
For Charlotte Bumb, RN, 13 weeks went by too fast.
After accepting a travel assignment in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Bumb found herself immersed in her unit and new life, and not ready to leave at the end of her first 13-week contract.
“Originally I really liked the floor I was working on and I just wasn’t ready to leave,” Bumb said. “And then I met a boy.”
Bumb, who has been traveling with nurse staffing agency NursesRx for almost a year, is not the only travel nurse who has found themselves not quite ready to leave at the end of their assignment. Many RNs fall in love with a city, a hospital…or a person, and find they need some additional time before moving on to their next assignment.
Luckily for travel nurses, extending an assignment is a relatively easy process, as long as the facility still has a need for supplemental staff.
“Travelers can extend if the hospital still has a need and they are interested in staying,” said Olivia Carper, senior recruiter with NursesRx. “Travelers can also extend at the same facility on a different unit if they want; it really depends on the needs of the traveler and the facility.”
“I would say about half my travelers end up extending at least another eight to 13 weeks, the time goes by so fast, they usually want more time to explore the area and enjoy their assignment.”
Bumb met her current boyfriend about a month before the end of her original travel contract. Realizing that he was a “keeper,” Bumb looked into extending her assignment.
“The nurse manager had actually been asking people if they were interested in extending before I even thought about it,” she said.
In fact, it is often very common for a traveler to get approached about an extension without even asking for it. Carper recommends that all travelers looking to extend keep an open line of communication with management and let them know about any plans for an extension as early as possible.
“The process can be very easy; the key is communication. Travelers need to make sure their nurse manager is aware that they are interested in staying and they need to let their recruiter know as early as possible, too. This way the facility will not repost their position,” Carper advised.
“Once the travel nurse has discussed his or her plans to extend their assignment with their manager and their recruiter, the recruiter will then get in touch with the facility and they will arrange another contract,” Carper explained. “It can be difficult if the traveler does not talk with their nurse manager and discuss their desire to extend. In situations like that, the facility may start interviewing new travel nurse candidates or, if they wait until the last minute, their apartment may get rented out to another traveler.”
Janel Townsend, RN has been traveling for 10 months and has extended her current assignment in Los Angeles once since signing on.
“I felt like it went by really fast and I need more time,” Townsend said. “I liked my unit and it was different. I got the opportunity for new experience and wanted to get more out of it.”
Townsend got the opportunity to work as an ICU nurse in the ER, which was a new experience from her traditional role in critical care. Many nurses want to extend because they find the experience, training and new skills they learn on assignment is something they want to be immersed in beyond 13 weeks.
“It is very beneficial to me to stay in Los Angeles for longer,” Townsend said. “I am established and comfortable and I am getting used to everything,” she said. “I just want to milk this experience as much as I can because I don’t know when I am going to get this experience again.”
Alexis Garcia, senior recruiter with NursesRx, said that whatever a traveler’s reason is for extending, they should start thinking about their next move as soon as possible and remember that communication is key.
“It's never too early to start thinking about an extension,” Garcia explained. “I had one traveler extend after two weeks of his assignment because he knew he loved it and they absolutely loved him already. Also, extending can be a long drawn-out process if communication isn't happening on both ends, with the traveler talking to the nurse manager and the company following up. Communication is of utmost importance.”
Both Bumb and Townsend will extend again if the facility needs them. For travelers facing a similar situation, Carper recommends that they keep their options open.
“Know that even if you want to extend, it is a good idea to continue to look at other assignments with your recruiter so you have a back up plan in case the facility does not have a need for you to extend,” Carper said. “Even if the nurse manager wants you to extend as well, things can change such as census fluctuations, budgets and hiring; so until you have your contract, be sure to explore other options, too.”
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