What To Do if You Get Sick on a Travel Assignment

October 10, 2023


Megan Bebout

GettyImages-1360140094-minEveryone gets sick, whether it’s a cold, flu, coronavirus (COVID-19), or something else. Even badass medical professionals like you. But when that happens while you’re working a travel job, what do you do? That’s what we’re here to find out.


What To Do if You Get Sick on a Travel Assignment


Can professional travelers call in sick?

Here’s the million-dollar question and the answer is: YES! Especially if you’re sick. As a medical professional, you already know how important it is to protect others from illness. When you’re sick, you can’t properly treat your patients because you’re not feeling 100% yourself or because you’re contagious and could risk getting them sick, as well. So, if you’re sick while working a medical travel assignment, don’t be afraid to call in.

The downside is, depending on the state and the travel agency you work with, you may not be eligible for sick time. That means that if you get sick, you may have to take unpaid time off while you recover. For example, states like Arizona and California offer sick time for travelers to accumulate while working a contract, while others don’t.

The plus side is that depending on the facility’s needs and availability, you can make up your missed shift later in the week or the week after. All you have to do is contact your facility director and ask for a make-up shift. If they’re unable to make it happen, call your recruiter and ask if they can negotiate extra days to your travel contract instead.

Other times, the staffing agency you work with will offer sick leave or paid time off (PTO). When you travel with Fusion Medical Staffing, you receive PTO after working 1,500 hours. This time off can be used for things like vacations, mental health days, and sick days.

Dangers of going to work sick

Calling in sick can come with a layer of guilt. Remember, you’re only human and you can’t control whether you get sick. However, you can control if you go to work sick or not.

According to health experts, you should avoid going to work while sick. Not only does working while sick make you less productive, but it also puts patients at risk and can cause illness and disease to spread. Plus, if you work with transplant patients, oncology patients, neonatal patients, and those who are already immunocompromised, going work sick poses a greater threat.

“Ultimately or ideally, you don’t want anyone who has a potentially transmittable infectious disease to provide patient care,” said David Kuhar, MD. “It’s really important that all health care workers, not just nurses, are very aware of when they might be ill and that they try to handle that appropriately. If you do think you are ill, make sure you take the measures to ensure that you don’t transmit your infection to one of your patients.”

Things to consider when calling in sick

So, here you are feeling icky — it may be time to call in sick. Before you make the call, consider these three things.

Figure out who to call

First thing’s first, you must provide notice of your absence. Not just to anyone, but to the right person. Whom should you call?

Here’s the thing: notification policies vary by agency and facility. Most times, you’ll learn the process during orientation. However, you’ll always contact at least two people: your facility director and your travel recruiter. Since the facility you’re working in relies on you being there, they need to know ASAP if you can’t make your shift. That way, the facility has some time to find a replacement to cover your shift.

After you’ve notified the facility, it’s time to fill in your travel recruiter. Most agencies, like Fusion Medical Staffing, want to be kept in the loop so they can anticipate the number of hours on your timecard and keep track of your attendance record. Additionally, your travel recruiter could help fill your open shift if there’s another traveler at the same location. Your recruiter is there for you to help make your life easier, even when you’re sick.

Consider financial consequences

Another thing to consider when calling in sick is the financial ramifications of missing a shift, especially if you don’t have PTO or designated sick leave. When you miss a shift, you don’t get your hourly pay or stipends for that day or period. If that’s the case, double-check that you can afford the unpaid time off or try to make up for the missed time.

If you’re a new grad enrolled in Fusion’s new grad bonus program, then you’ll want to make up the hours. Why? Because if not, you may not hit your goal and if that happens, you may not be eligible to receive the bonus. And no one wants that to happen.

Of course, the financial consequences can depend on how many sick days you need. For example, missing one day has different repercussions than if you called in sick for over a week. So, keep the financial consequences in mind and come up with a plan to ensure you can still make ends meet while you recover.

Think of your attendance record

Company-provided services, like housing stipends, depend on you working your full contracted hours, so it’s important to show up for your shift when you’re able to. That doesn’t mean that you should go to work while you’re sick. But do keep in mind that taking off multiple days can affect your attendance record as a professional traveler — and your attendance matters.

Depending on the fine print in your travel contract, several absences can be grounds for termination. And if you have a history of calling into work, you could be blacklisted or marked as do not use (DNU), do not call (DNC), or do not send (DNS). If that happens, then you may not be eligible to work at certain medical facilities or with specific staffing agencies.

Steps to take if you get sick during a travel job

Now that you know the considerations for calling in sick, let’s break down the process. When you travel with Fusion Medical Staffing, these are the steps to take if you get sick during a travel assignment:

1. Call your facility director

2. Call your travel recruiter

3. Follow up with necessary requirements

Every facility will have its own requirements when it comes to calling in sick. For example, some may require a doctor’s note as proof of illness. Other places may have paperwork for you to complete. You should learn the facility’s requirements during orientation, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask your facility director or travel recruiter.


It’s never fun to get sick. But it’s even less fun when you’re sick on a travel job and have to take time off. Whether it’s a common cold or something more serious, you deserve time to yourself to recover. If you get sick while working on a travel assignment, use this guide to help walk you through what to do.