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Tips to Navigate and Overcome Being Treated Unfairly as a Travel Nurse

If you are a travel nurse or are considering becoming one, you’ve likely heard stories about how travel nurses are sometimes treated poorly, bullied, and/or are often given the worst shifts and weekends. While in some cases, this might be true, it is important to remember that a large part of the outcome of any interaction is going to be how you approach it. Like any situation, if you go into it expecting the worst, you are likely to receive it. Whereas, if you go into it with a positive attitude, you’re likely to be met in kind.

Yet – this won’t always work on the floor in your department. To address what we understand to be a very real concern for travel nurses, we scoured the internet to compile tips and tricks for navigating a new hospital or department to try and limit the amount of negativity directed your way. But first, let’s understand why travel nurses are often treated poorly.

As a travel nurse, you are used to moving around, going in and out of departments, and changing your lifestyle and schedule frequently. However, traditional nurses are not. In order to learn to manage the way traditional hospital staff treats you, you need to first understand why they may treat you negatively.

Forms of negativity experienced by travel nurses

Unfortunately, nurses in general are often treated poorly. However, travel nurses and new grads tend to experience the brunt of negativity.

In nursing, this type of behavior is referred to as bullying, and incivility by The American Nurse Association (ANA). The ANA defines incivility as actions such as gossiping, spreading rumors, and refusing to assist a coworker. It may also include name-calling, using a condescending tone, and publicly expressing criticism. These types of actions may come from superiors or coworkers and typically occur in specialty departments such as behavioral health, intensive care units, and the emergency room.

In addition to verbal abuse, according to The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there are four types of violence that nurses might face in their work environment:

  1. Criminal Intent. The perpetrator has no relationship with the victim, and the violence is carried out in conjunction with a crime.
  2. Customer/Client. The most common health care environment-based assault, the perpetrator is a member of the public with whom the nurse is interacting during the course of their regular duties.
  3. Worker-on-worker. Commonly perceived as bullying, in these instances the perpetrator and victim work together – though not necessarily in the same role or at the same level.
  4. Personal relationship. In these incidents, the victim has been targeted as a result of an existing exterior relationship with the perpetrator, with the violence taking place in the workplace.

If you are experiencing any of this type of behavior, it is imperative you speak to a manager to try and find a solution to the problem so you can continue to do your job.

Ways travel nurses are often treated unfairly and how to combat them

Aside from more serious types of abuse, many travel nurses experience a type of hazing that they feel is unfair. This type of mistreatment is often experienced in the following ways.


In most hospitals, travel nurses are the first to float. Floating is the process of reassigning nurses from their regular assignments to short-staffed areas. This can make you feel as if you are being marginalized. Understandably, floating can be difficult, especially if floating to a department you are inexperienced with.

The key here is to remember that as a travel nurse, your first function is to fill the hospital’s needs. While it certainly doesn’t feel fair that the outsider unfamiliar with the hospital is the first to float, if this is what the hospital needs, as a travel nurse you will most likely receive the task. It may be irritating, but to do well as a travel nurse, you need to be flexible.

If floating is something you simply cannot handle or refuse to do, make sure your contract outlines this. Then, should the conflict arise, you can point to the stipulation in your contract that you do not float.


When working out the details in your contract for a new role, your schedule will be a point you can specify. There is no reason why you should be working every weekend and holiday just because you are a travel nurse.

Your schedule may not be exactly as you asked for, but it’s usually close to what you wanted. If you know you need some time off during your assignment, it’s important to have those dates ready when you interview so they can be written into your contract.

Fitting In

Fitting in is one of the aspects you have the most control over. When interviewing for an assignment, be sure to ask how often travel nurses work on the unit as well as how the hospital views travel nurses. Some hospitals have a constant churn of travel nurses. This puts stress on the traditional nursing staff and could create a culture of dislike for travel nurses. Conversely, if a hospital appreciates travel nurses and they are used judiciously, the permanent nursing staff may have the utmost respect for travel nurses.

The key here is you don’t know unless you ask.

Any assignment is temporary

Finally, it is important to remember that any assignment you take is temporary and you will be leaving eventually. If you do find yourself in a difficult situation, you just need to hold out until the end of your contract, and then you can move on to a different hospital. And when you are interviewing for that next contract, keep these tips in mind so you can make the most of your time and find the right environment for you.

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