Travel Nursing 101: Leaving an Assignment Early

We get it, the unexpected happens. That’s just life. Travel nurses enter into contracts with the best intention to complete their assignments, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. So what do you do when you need to leave an assignment early? And how do you know it’s the right choice? Let’s dive in!

Commit and Cancel Carefully

It’s important to remember when signing a contract for a travel nurse assignment, you are making a legal commitment. Because of this, each assignment contract should be carefully considered before signing. Once you have begun your assignment, canceling or leaving your assignment early should be done with as much consideration, if not more, since canceling, if not done correctly and for the right reasons, can negatively impact your travel nursing career.

Not sure if a cancellation reason would be considered valid in travel nursing? That’s okay. We’ve listed some examples below from Nomadicare for clarity. Also, remember to always speak to your recruiter if you are considering leaving early. They may be able to help you deal with the issues you are facing so that you do not have to cancel!

Examples of Valid Reasons to Cancel or Leave a Contract EarlyExamples of Controversial Reasons to Cancel or Leave a Contract Early
A death in their family or inner circle
A significant illness came up (their own or someone else’s in the family)
Health risks within the facility
Unethical practices within the facility
Anything relating to them potentially losing their license (if they continue to work the assignment)
Another job opened up that pays more
Another job opened up in a better location
They don’t like the contract or co-workers (that is different than ethical issues or issues that would impact your professional license)
They no longer like their recruiter or staffing agency
They are lonely and want to go home
It is too challenging  

Consequences of Canceling

Cancellation Fees

The first and probably most obvious consequence of leaving an assignment early is the cancellation fee. This fee is showing up more and more in contracts as cancellations increase in the travel nursing industry. Because both the medical facility and your recruitment office invest money and time into finding the right fit for a position, they are often looking to be compensated for their loss. There can be leniency if your reason for canceling is an emergency, but you should always be prepared to pay any cancellation fee in your contract if you decide to leave early.

Career Impact

Canceling a contract comes with possible consequences to your career that should be considered before leaving an assignment early. For instance, most hospitals and medical facilities will no longer consider you eligible for future contracts if you cancel an assignment with them. While it may not seem like a big deal to lose the opportunity with one facility, most are in networks that share this information. Furthermore, many medical facilities and hospitals are using managed service providers (MSPs) to oversee their hiring processes. If you cancel an assignment and get marked as DNR (do-not-hire) with an MSP, you could lose opportunities for rehire amongst their entire client list.

What To Do If You Have to Cancel

Okay, so you’ve considered all of the consequences and now you are ready to move forward with canceling your contract. Here are a few tips to help you do this in a professional manner.

  1. Communicate with your recruitment agency. They will have protocols you will need to respect and they can help you step by step follow best practices for quitting.
  2. Offer referrals for a replacement if you have them. The hospital is going to be in a pinch when you leave!
  3. Provide as much notice as possible. This will help the facility adjust to the changes in staffing and care that need to take place because of your absence.


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