Nursing Strike Advice for Travel Nurses: 7 Considerations for Crossing the Picket Line

Nursing Strike Advice for Travel Nurses: 7 Considerations for Crossing the Picket Line

Have you ever worked a nursing strike contract? Are you ready to cross the picket line and make good money on strike nursing jobs? Learn more about nursing strikes and seven considerations for taking on this type of travel nursing assignment.

How Does a Nursing Strike Work?

Nursing strikes in the United States occur when the two sides cannot reach a compromise on a contract or bargaining agreement. At that point, the union will decide whether or not to strike. Typically, strikes occur when a collective bargaining agreement or contract is up for renewal.

Some of the most newsworthy strikes in the past ten years include the Minnesota Nurses Associate Strike which lasted 38 days in 2017 and the Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Clinicians strike that involved nurses in December of 2018. In order to gain a more favorable bargaining position, the hospital may hold a lockout or a strike.

No matter which decision is reached (a lockout or a strike) there is a minimum of 10 days notice the unions and hospitals must provide in advance of a nursing strike in order to get an agreement negotiated or plans made to transfer patients and temporary staff lined up to provide care.

Nurses who participate in the strike usually have to forfeit pay during the duration. Unions advise the nurses not to use sick time or vacation time in most instances. If there are funds from the union to support nurses during the strike, they are typically quite meager. Understandably, you can see why nurses who are actively striking take the matter quite personally and seriously.

How a Nursing Strike is Different than a Corporate Strike

A corporate strike and a US nursing strike are two entirely different labor disputes. Workers and nurses will go on strike for similar reasons, such as low pay, poor working conditions, etc., but the implications of a nursing strike are far greater than those of a corporation strike. Why?

When a corporate strike occurs, the company is likely going to shut down if they do not bring in other workers. Subsequently, business owners, managers, and workers are affected by a corporate strike. However, when nurses go on strike, besides business owners and employees, there is another (and quite vulnerable) population affected: patients.

Patients still need care so the burden lies on the hospital to ensure strike nurses can come in and keep the hospital running and patients alive! Travel nurses are often used by the hospital in these instances to fill the vacant positions. If you are a travel nurse considering working strike nursing jobs, here are seven considerations to keep in mind about working at a striking hospital during its labor dispute.

Seven Considerations for Travel Nurses Working Strike Nursing Jobs

1. Treatment from the striking nurses

If you enter a hospital as a replacement during the strike, the nurses who are currently on strike may look you unkindly. Take. Nothing. Personal. Those nurses participating in the strike are invested emotionally and have strong feelings toward the hospital and the ongoing labor dispute. When stepping onto the nursing floor to work during a hospital strike, even though it’s your first day at the hospital, you may feel like a traitor working while other nurses are in refusal, demanding safer working conditions, better staffing ratios, or higher pay. Keep the patients’ wellbeing your top priority. Have you ever heard the phrase “these are not my monkeys, not my circus”? It’s true. You are not personally involved in any of the reasons those nurses chose to strike, so remember why you’re there in the first place – to provide care for patients who desperately need your skills. The last thing anyone wants during a nursing strike is for the patients to end up casualties of the labor dispute.

2. Securing your nursing license for the strike nursing contract

If you already have a compact nursing license and the state that the strike is in is part of the compact, you should be ready to go. If you do not have an active nursing license in the state that the strike is in, then you need to get on it! The nurse staffing agency you work with will assist you to get the license that you need in time for the strike, in accordance with each state’s requirements. Furthermore, the hospital will also assist with fees and expediting this process in order to get the travel nurses they need as soon as possible.

3. Considerations for your safety while working a nursing strike

Any labor dispute, including one at a hospital, is the perfect recipe for a tense environment that may cause concerns for safety. Most hospitals are aware of this and may provide transportation for the strike nurses to and from the hospital for each shift. An alternative entrance to the hospital may be provided to allow the travel nurses to avoid the picket line. While working on the job, keep your safety in mind by following the following three tips:

  1. Travel in pairs or groups with other travel nurses and never divulge where you are staying.
  2. When avoidable, do not wear your hospital badge, ID, or scrubs in public to identify yourself.
  3. Stay out of the politics involving the labor dispute. Remember, not your monkeys, not your circus. No matter how you feel or your perceptions on the nursing labor dispute, do not engage in conversations about the strike and keep a professional distance from the people who are working in the hospital – not on strike.

4. Hours nurses work during a strike

Get ready to put in the hours while you are working a strike as a travel nurse! You are going to find a skeleton crew holding up the pillars of the entire hospital during a nursing strike. As one of the few nurses working during the strike, you will be expected to work more than 40 hours in the week. A typical expectation is about 60 hours per week.

5. Housing for travel nurses working strikes

Your travel and accommodations will be covered while you work a strike nursing contract, but they’re not going to be the same as if you were working a standard 13-week travel nursing assignment. Round-trip airfare will be covered as well as transportation to the hospital from your hotel. Don’t be surprised if you will need to stay in a hotel with a shared room with another nurse working the strike.

6. Travel nursing “shortened orientation” on steroids

It’s no secret that nurses who travel are given a shorter orientation than staff nurses. However, when working a strike, this condensation is on steroids! Be prepared for a crash course on everything from the hospital policies and procedures, computer charting, and regulatory requirements. Typically you will complete a skills check off and receive an introduction to the equipment and unit policies, and then you will be on your own.

7. Compensation for nurse striking jobs 

If you don’t know already, strike nursing contracts compensate very well. Most of the travel nursing jobs for strikes last about two weeks at a time. On average, a strike nurse makes between $3,000 and $5,000 per week. However, some hospitals that are in a hard place and financially able will pay double that amount! Plus, on a strike nursing job, you are typically paid in full once you arrive at the strike nursing location. Typically, you will receive this pay even if the strike ends before you’ve completed the assignment length.

Is Strike Nursing Right for You?

If you are ready to work and serve patients who desperately need your qualified skills, strike nursing provides generous compensation that makes it worthwhile. While we don’t have any active nursing strikes being filled at the moment, take a look at our jobs board to find a travel nursing assignment right for you.