Upon accepting an assignment, it will not be official until a contract has been created. Most agencies will send you a written contract for you to review and sign within a brief time frame after verbally accepting an assignment.
Some agencies use verbal contracts in which they review the terms of the contract and you will verbally agree to the terms. You may request to have a written copy submitted to you afterwards.
Sometimes an agency may review the terms of the contract with you over the phone, and then send you a contract that states no signature is needed because the receipt of the contract is binding.
I am sure like most people, I personally prefer written contracts I can sign. It gives me the chance to think about the assignment and the conditions agreed upon before having to sign the contract, and making it official.
However, as noted above, there are different methods of contract agreements. Be sure to ask your recruiter which type they use. I know many locum tenens nurse practitioners, including myself, that have found themselves “bound” to a contract they were not aware of.
Be straightforward with your recruiter that you will not consider the assignment official until you have a contract in place and have agreed to it after receiving it. In my case, I was emailed a contract that was binding upon receipt. Meanwhile, I didn’t think it was official since I had not signed it. When I was contacted by credentialing and their traveling team, I then realized that they assumed I was going forward with that assignment because they sent me a contract.
After a site determines that they want you, your recruiter may ask you if you want to accept the assignment. Sometimes we find ourselves saying yes before we are completely sure. Then a few days later you may change your mind and notify your recruiter. Often, they are upset by your new declination because now they have to inform the site. Technically, if they never sent you a contract or you had not yet signed it, you have the right to change your decision.
What should your contract include?
Everything agreed upon by you and your recruiter should be stated in the contract. This includes your hourly pay rate, overtime rate, exact time frame of assignment, and your general weekly schedule. The contract should state your travel and lodging will be covered, whether it is a rental car and flight, or providing you round trip mileage reimbursement. If your license costs are supposed to be covered, that should be in the contract. Other things that should be in the contract if indicated are sign-on bonuses, W2 benefits, DEA license fee reimbursement, and/or scheduled vacation days.
One of the most important things I look for in a contract is the “breaking of a contract” section. Most agencies will include the typical 30 days notice section, that states you must provide 30 days notice before leaving a site. Some contracts will state penalties for leaving before 30 days such as forfeit of pending paychecks and being responsible for your own travel back home. These things can be negotiable so make sure to read the contract closely before signing or agreeing to the terms.