Travel Nursing And Block Scheduling: Do You Need It?

Rick Martinez

The short answer is yes, and here’s why.

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

There are numerous negotiating points in nursing contracts these days.

Everything from a nurse's hourly rate to housing, location, and even the duration of the assignment. But something many nurses might overlook is their schedule. Specifically the ability to exert some control and say so in it.

Of course, I'm talking about block scheduling.

Simply put, a travel nurse can have their shifts set up so that they are consecutive. The reasons may vary, often it's so that there is more free time to explore their new city or locale. For others, like me, I like to block my days so I'm free to travel home or have my family come to see me.

While block scheduling may not be a "Top 3" perk because it doesn't lend to more money or bonuses, it certainly lends to happiness and peace of mind. And in most opinions, those things are priceless.

A lot of travel nurses come into the profession intending to have block schedules in mind. Some travel nurse agencies will give this kind of schedule, while others will not. But frankly, it's more often than not the decision of the hospital or unity that the travel nurse will be assigned to.

I know for me, as related to my current travel assignment, block scheduling was a non-negotiable point.

Travel Nursing Pro Tip: Whether or not it's essential to you, it's worth bringing up for discussion with your travel nurse recruiter and making sure it's included in your agreement. You don't want ugly scheduling surprises when you arrive at your assignment.

So what exactly is block scheduling for travel nurses?

This is a great question, and it's honestly a simple answer.

Most nurses are used to a few things in our profession:

  1. We almost all do 12-hour shifts, days or nights.
  2. We likely work every other weekend and a mix of some weekdays.
  3. We get a one or two-day break, and the cycle continues as such.

Block scheduling is the opposite.

Here's what I mean.

I'll choose to work four shifts in a row on my current contract then take the last three days of the week off. Then the following week, I might take the first two days off and work the remainder. So if you were to put that on paper, you'd see that all my workdays are in a row, and more importantly, it allows me to take a five-day break in between.

This is perfect for me, especially as I head home for a special anniversary and family time.

Put another way, these shifts can be spread out or "blocked" together.

Here's another, more generic example. Let's say that your next contract has block scheduling included. You get there, and a potential schedule might look like this:

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Off

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – On

If you're following the nursing schedule example above: If your travel nursing job is close to your permanent home, you might be able to drive straight home from your Sunday shift and arrive back in time for when you start working again on Friday.

Travel Nursing Pro Tip:

This is imperative to remember that "block scheduling" doesn't imply that you'll have the same days off each week.

So how do I get a block schedule?

Honestly, most travel nurse agencies don't manage this for their nurses. In fact, they're often made by the facility that you're placed at and assigned to. And that's why it's crucial to get this stated in the contract.

Because even though the travel nurse agency doesn't actually control it, they likely have a direct line to the unit and manager to assure it's a "green light."

Be sure to speak to your travel nurse recruiter about these details if going home between shifts is important to you!

The final word

Block scheduling is a non-negotiable point for some travel nurses. It may not be as important to others, but it's worth discussing with your recruiter and ensuring that the contract includes this option.

 If you're going home between shifts or have other special needs, make sure to bring it up early, so there are no surprises when you arrive at your next assignment!

Happy travels!

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I'm a freelance writer and a nurse, exploring the world one beer, donut, and experience at a time. Writing about the travel nurse industry and healthcare, with the occasional emphasis on donuts. #NomNom

San Antonio, TX
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