This year, a host of fear-mongering headlines started to surface on the internet. Titles like the “Travel nurses’ gold rush is over” and “Is the Travel Nurse Pay Boom Really Done?” The funny thing about these headlines and articles is that they firstly don’t understand the concept of nurses being in high demand and therefore earning that kind of income, but also that the nursing demand isn’t over. We are just seeing a drop in their income. Which – let’s be real – was hoisted into the sky with how many nurses were needed in certain hospitals and facilities throughout the pandemic.
Let’s rewind a little bit.
Travel nursing has been around for a while now and didn’t just pop up when the pandemic did. Nurses were simply sent to whatever hospitals required them in whichever state they were located. This depended on many things. If they had a shortage of nurses or an influx of patients, or if a certain issue arose and more nurses were needed ASAP. These 13-week contracts were very normal and required hospitals to pay a higher amount than a staff nurse would be paid. A reasonably common situation in any profession.
Why they discuss a crash in this payment is purely based on the fact that hospitals were in such dire need of more nurses at the time, that payment was high. If something is in high demand, you need to pay more for it. Also another fairly common situation in any profession. The pandemic had mass amounts of patients entering hospitals at an alarming rate. These hospitals, especially in areas like New York and Florida or rural areas, needed extra hands. As a nurse, accepting these assignments means walking head first into the fire. Into the COVID wards filled with patients, into the lives of those who were slipping away and couldn’t see their families, as well as all of the families that couldn’t see their sick relatives or friends. Why wouldn’t nurses be able to make an amount of money – that they should be making anyways – when they know this will be their risk and reality for the 13 weeks.
How much were travel nurses being paid? In some areas, nurses were making up to $10,000 a week. Working very long, hard and stressful hours, with little to no breaks and almost completely covering their bodies up in protective gear. It was a short-term rate that made a lot of sense. Of course, it wasn’t the case for staff nurses, and that’s where the discussions arise. Yet, as with most things, the blame goes onto the only solution at the time (travel nurses), rather than the initial problem: nurses aren’t making enough money for what they are doing. Especially during something as serious as a pandemic.
So, what’s the deal now?
Well, despite the fact that COVID has not disappeared from hospitals completely; since the vaccination, we have been seeing a decline in patients entering hospitals and in death rates. That also means there is a decline in urgency for nurses and therefore, a decline in income. Though, once again, we have to remember that these rates were skyrocketing to begin with. Now that the urgency is less, that only means that the income becomes closer to what it was before, which at that time was already a huge reason why nurses were considering travel nursing in the first place. Essentially, the travel nurse pay is still great.
But will travel nursing jobs still be in demand and available? Absolutely. There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, nurses were in demand before the pandemic and are still going to be in demand now. There will inevitably be reasons for a nursing shortage with the reasons listed above. An influx of patients, a shortage of staff or an issue that has arisen, etc.
Secondly, continuing on from nursing shortages, there is one. A recent report by McKinsey and Company shows that by 2025 there will be a shortage of up to 20%. This in itself already shows hospitals will be looking for another option, which will have to be travel nurses, to fill the gaps.
Lastly, burnout. It has been a pandemic on its own when it comes to healthcare workers post-pandemic. Many nurses and doctors need a break to rebuild their mental health back to what it was before or better. Many healthcare workers are even considering taking a step back from their work to do just this.
An extra note on this is that when we pull back on COVID patients. We are left playing plenty of catch-up with all of the patients that held back during the pandemic due to fear or delays. Those who had surgeries postponed or simply did not see a doctor when this or that occurred, will be seeking these treatments now. Showing that, at the end of the day, travel nurses are still in demand. And highly so.
We’ve been left with a lot of fear over the past few years. Don’t let headlines like these fool you into thinking anything differently for travel nurses. Of course, we need to be realistic and see that sure, the pay may not be up in the 10s of thousands anymore, but it is still there and still a huge draw. Travel nurses are needed, wanted and valued in the healthcare industry. They come in because it is necessary to make sure there are enough nurses for patients and with an ageing population; that number will continue to rise.
If travel nursing is something you are interested in or have thought about, don’t be afraid to click here to find out more. We can answer all of your questions on what travel nursing is like now after the pandemic and how you may be able to help a hospital in need.
The travel nursing world is still intact and there are still hospitals that need you. Sign up today!