COVID-19 Predictions for Fall 2020
The novel coronavirus has forever changed travel nursing and COVID-19 predictions for the coming fall suggest a continued impact on travel nurses.
Hundreds of travel nursing contracts were canceled without much notice leaving nurses across the country scrambling to find their next contract. Crisis nursing positions in Seattle and New York City were filled with lightning speed. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in parts of America, medical experts are predicting a hard-hitting second wave in the Fall of 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts a second wave may, in fact, be more deadly than the first because it most likely will coincide with the start of flu season.
Unfortunately, it may be difficult to differentiate between a first wave and a second wave as the number of cases is reaching an all-time high in over 30 states. Technically, a wave requires a peak in infections followed by a substantial reduction. A new rise and peak would signal the start of another wave. Some will have a very clear first and second wave, such as New York while others will not have the differentiation. Without a vaccine or cure for coronavirus, a second wave is inevitable.
As healthcare organizations across the country continue to ramp up and resume elective procedures, travel nurses are finding an increase in opportunities, especially, in larger cities. Despite the increase in available positions, travel nurses must continue to be flexible and ready to go in a moment’s notice.
Potential Impact of a Second COVID-19 Wave
The second wave of COVID-19 could potentially see similar closings as the first, including suspension of elective surgeries and a decrease in hospitalizations, particularly in children. During the first wave, hospitals rushed to hire hundreds of travel nurses expecting an influx of coronavirus patients. Unfortunately, most hospitals saw a decrease in patients; therefore, an abundance of extra nurses. Nurses working in the OR and PACU were left jobless and scrambling to make ends meet and had to file for unemployment.
The first wave led to the early retirement of Baby Boomers and those with pre-existing conditions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a nursing shortage with a career outlook growth of over 12%. The retirement of these nurses has only increased the shortage. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has predicted that there will be a need for 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026, and those numbers will be much higher in the aftermath of this pandemic. Furthermore, it has led to many leaving the bedside to pursue other opportunities in nursing including telehealth nursing. Travel nurses help fill the void left by those staff nurses leaving.
With an all but certain second wave of COVID-19, travel nurses should be prepared to potentially change the way they view travel nursing. Most travel nurses are used to taking high paying positions in highly desirable locations in order to travel locally on off days. Unfortunately, that has not been the case lately due to the ongoing pandemic.
How Travel Nurses Can Prepare for a Second Wave
Travel nurses might need to consider taking an assignment closer to home, taking a position in a unit outside their normal specialty, or taking a permanent staff position (even temporarily). Nurses should expect to see a decrease in available positions in certain specialties and an increase in ER and ICU assignments during a second wave.
On the other hand, a second wave could see an increase in patients because of the combination with flu season and those with a compromised immune system are at greater risk. If this is the case, travel nurses would see an influx of highly lucrative crisis positions throughout the country. OR and PACU nurses may need to look for other types of travel nursing assignments, such as a COVID swab nurse, COVID contact tracer, or a telehealth nurse, if elective surgeries are once again suspended.
It’s important for travel nurses to prepare now in case the second wave hits as expected. Your checklist should include:
- Making sure all your paperwork is up-to-date
- Making a list of contract must-haves including travel expenses, reimbursements, sick pay, quarantine pay, and cancellation policy
- Ensuring you have a multi-state RN license and all single state licenses are up to date
- Researching arrangements you’d need to actually leave for a job
- Building connections with nurse recruiters from several travel nursing agencies
Ultimately, it is impossible to say what the implications are for travel nurses if a second wave of COVID-19 hits. It’s important that travel nurses stay flexible, have their resumes ready, and be willing to work in unconventional settings.