Whether you are a staff nurse or a traveler, we all have things that are important to us on the job. For night shifters, a block schedule can be critically important to maintaining a sleep schedule that works for them. For others, not missing their child’s Friday night school activities might be the top priority.
As a staff nurse, you can build relationships with management, switch shifts with friends and generally cultivate the schedule that works for your life. (Most of the time). As a traveler, you are often only allowed a few minimal requests before applying. I know if it’s an assignment I really want I will often leave off any requests to make myself a more appealing candidate. Most of the time you get a chance to meet with management briefly during orientation to get your schedule and this is when I negotiate what I need or want.
To successfully negotiate, it’s important to understand managements point of view. They are paying a small fortune for you to come take the pressure valve off their full-time employees. They know that you are there for a short time and then they will likely not see you again, so keeping you happy is NEVER going to be a priority for them. Their time is stretched thin, and they want to deal with you as briefly as possible. Their currency is knowing that you are going to take great care of the patients that are part of their community, and the staff that is part of their work family.
Negotiating what you need is a transaction. Lead with what they want and need, follow up with what makes your life work, and then wrap it all up with gratitude and assurances that you are worth the investment. For me a block schedule is a top priority but submitting that on applications will often get your application tossed, so I don’t always request it in the original application. I wait until we swing by the manager’s office and then it goes something like this.
“I understand that as a traveler, you pay me a lot of money to be here for whatever needs you have. I’m happy to work every weekend if that’s a tough spot for you, but as a night shifter I function better with my sleep schedule consistent. If you can block those days for me, I think we will both be happy.” Or sometimes, it goes something like, “I understand that as a traveler, I’m well compensated to fill whatever gaps you need and give your staff a break, I know I’m contracted for 3 days, but if you ever have a week where you need more from me, just let me know, I’m happy to pick up a 4th, 5th. whatever if you need it. I do have a kid with some Friday night activities so if I can have any of those off it really helps my work life balance, but if not, I understand”
I have not yet encountered a manager who didn’t compliment my understanding of my role as a traveler, often calling it “refreshing”. Just acknowledge that they have no accountability to try and make you happy, acknowledge that your role is to work whatever helps them and you will find most managers are happy to try and work with you to create a little balance while you are away from your family.