Working Holidays as a Travel Nurse: What You Need to Know

If you’re a nurse or other healthcare professional, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to work at least some holidays throughout the course of your career. But travel RNs in particular have to take a slightly different approach to working holidays. Today, we’re covering the basics of all you need to know about working holidays as a travel nurse.


Let’s jump right into it!


Do Travel Nurses Have to Work Holidays?


If you’re thinking about becoming a travel nurse or are new to travel nursing, it’s a legitimate question to ask — Do travel nurses have to work holidays? Technically, the answer is no, travel nurses do not have to work holidays.


Travel nurses get to choose which contracts they agree to work, and a travel nurse doesn’t have to choose a contract that overlaps with important holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s.


Where’s the catch? Well, you may find yourself as a travel RN working a contract that happens to fall over a holiday, working a contract that requires you to work specific holidays, or you might have heard some benefits of working holiday shifts and would actually like to try working a holiday.


In case you need an easy cheat sheet, here’s a refresher on the dates of major U.S. federal holidays and observances for 2021-2022:


US Holidays for Nurses


In any case, it can be helpful to know both how to request holidays off as a travel nurse as well as what some of the benefits may be if you either want to work the holidays or are unable to get the time off approved.


To start, let’s get to the second most important question you probably have… 


How to Request Holidays Off as a Travel Nurse


Picture this:


You’re considering your next assignments and have some contacts to choose from, and you may even be in the interviewing process. You know that you want to have a specific holiday off in order to go back home to see your family or simply have some time for yourself.


So, when the topic of holidays comes up, what are your options for requesting holidays off?


First, be prepared. Know exactly which holidays and other important days you would like to have off. As pediatric travel RN Alex McCoy writes for Healthcare Traveler Today


“When you are needing to make specific scheduling requests, recruiters will typically send these requests in with your original contract. It is also prudent to bring up any requests during your interview, so knowing your plans ahead of time is crucial to making sure you can secure your contract and get the time off you would like.”


Holidays should come up from the first discussion you have with your travel recruiter. From there, every agreement about holidays should be made official in writing, most preferably in the contact itself. Any agreements made about holidays outside of the contract should be well-documented, but it’s important to remember that the contents of the travel nursing contract take top priority when the holidays do roll around.


The Gypsy Nurse similarly notes about contracts around the holidays,


“Some hospitals will want you to work all, some will not let you work (too expensive) and even others will schedule you just like the staff and allow you to work every other or to pick one. Clear communications are KEY!”


Travel Nurse Pay Communication


Clear and proactive communication regarding holidays for travel nurses should take place not only between the travel nurse and the recruiter, but also among the nurse, recruiter, and the facility. Once the recruiter has submitted your application to the facility and you accept the job, it will be your responsibility to have any further discussions about holidays or time off with your direct manager at your assigned hospital or healthcare facility.


Even with a contract over the holidays, you may not actually be required to work them. However, working at least two major holidays as a travel RN is a common requirement.


There may also be some variation between hospitals and healthcare facilities on which shifts count as holiday time. So, be sure to clarify specific shift dates and times when going over holidays in your contract and during the interview process.


Generally, the most guaranteed way to avoid working a holiday is to not take a contract that will overlap with your desired holiday breaks. Try seeking out short-term contracts that take place before and after the holidays to get some work in between longer contracts. Extensions may also be available for long contracts to help you work closer up to a holiday.


As a travel nurse, you have many options!


Stuck Working Holidays? There Are Still Benefits!


Travel nurses and nurses of all kinds had it tough last year due to ongoing crisis work, and the 2021 holiday season could be similar. Many travel nurses could still be required to work on holidays due to high demand.


If you find yourself working as a travel nurse over the holidays, you don’t have to feel completely down about it. There are actually many benefits. These benefits are the reason why even some travel nurses actively seek out holiday assignments!


Let’s look at three main benefits of working holidays, as well as some added benefits for holidays around the end of the year.


#1 — More Assignment Options


Regular hospital and facility staff are more likely to take their own breaks during the holidays, leaving many shifts wide open for travel RNs to swoop in and cover in short-term assignments. The holidays are often just a busy time in general for healthcare due to increases in activities such as elective patient surgeries as well as increases in people’s general activities around holidays, leading to higher chances of injuries or hospitalizations.


If you have to work a holiday for one contract, some nurses might feel inclined to work another right after and just celebrate at a later time!


#2 — Holiday Pay Opportunities


Overtime , holiday pay, and travel bonuses are often available for travel nurses, making working the holidays look very appealing. However, it is always important to do your research and understand how much extra you will actually be earning in each case. Discuss holiday rates in detail with your staffing company to determine if working the holiday with the contract is worth the pay offered.


To call back to the first point, there are plenty of opportunities out there during the main holiday season, so you can always weigh your options before making a final decision.


#3 — Experience Somewhere New


Experiencing new places is an overall benefit to travel nursing, but it’s especially true for holidays. If your home is somewhere cold, why not travel somewhere warm down south for New Year’s? If you’ve never seen snow, why not travel north for the white Christmas you’ve always dreamed of? Of course, that’s if you seek out a travel assignment over the holidays.


If you’re working somewhere you weren’t originally planning to be over a holiday, it’s still a great opportunity to experience a holiday in a place with new traditions or different weather. You might even get to attend local events around the holidays!


Other Benefits


Particularly for end-of-the-year holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, working over the holidays as a travel nurse can be an opportunity to make a difference. Whether you’re uplifting your patients with holiday cheer or bonding with your coworkers, holidays at work can still become a good memory for everyone, including yourself. Not to mention, you’ll also rake in on all the holiday treats and goodies for healthcare staff at your hospital or facility!


Another benefit for working contracts that overlap with holidays at the end of the year is the ability to get ahead of the rush of travel RNs returning back to work over the holidays in what’s known as post-holiday contract competition. Opportunities to extend assignments or simply having the boost of more recent experience will make securing a job through January much easier if you work the holiday season.


Working Holidays Are What You Make of Them



As we’ve discovered, working holidays as a travel nurse are really what you make of them — whether you choose to even work them at all. There are benefits to both sides! Even if you can’t get your preferred holiday off during a contract, you still have many ways to make the most of it.


Looking for your next travel nursing assignment, regardless of holidays? Loyal Source is a national leader in travel healthcare! See our travel nursing jobs available today on our website.

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