Chaunie Brusie
Chaunie Brusie
October 28, 2020 - 3 min read

COVID-19 Updates for Travel Nurses

As of October 2020, these are the most recent COVID-19 updates for travel nurses including case counts, hospitalization rates, and how that is affecting travel nursing.

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What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now

Essentially, the U.S. is on the brink of its dreaded second surge right now, although much remains to be seen about just how the winter months will affect outcomes with those who are infected. Countries that were thought to have kicked corona’s butt, like Italy, are now imposing harsh nationwide lockdowns yet again, showing that there is still so much we have to learn about how to live with this virus.

As of right now, almost every single state in the country is seeing a spike in COVID cases. According to NPR’s daily state case tracker, the highest risk areas right now–meaning 25+ daily new positive tests, which indicates uncontrolled community spread–are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Wisconsin even had to open an overflow facility to care for infected patients at a local state fair area.

Other states that have earned a highest risk rating include many more rural states that avoided widespread outbreaks during the spring, such as Indiana, Kentucky. Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, and even Alaska and Rhode Island. Part of the problem with the virus hitting more rural communities is that they do not have as many hospitals as urban areas, so even a relatively “small” outbreak can be devastating to the community. And on top of that, some patients may have delayed care for other healthcare needs out of fear of visiting a provider or trying to stay home to protect others, which can complicate their health if they do get sick with COVID-19.

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What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now

Patient wise, so far, it appears that even as virus numbers and hospitalizations increase, overall, the health consequences to patients are not nearly as severe as they were in the spring. For example, the weekly surveillance data from the CDC shows an increase in COVID infections, but overall deaths and complications have decreased since the spring, although they are still above endemic levels. This may be attributed to an increase in efficient and effective treatment, increased symptom recognition and more available testing.

The CDC does note that both complications and deaths from COVID and other respiratory illnesses like the flu — because let’s not forget we are now officially in flu season — are expected to increase in the coming weeks, however.

Staff wise, however, things aren’t looking as good. Some hospitals are facing dire shortages of staff nurses–meaning more travel nursing agencies are being employed. For instance, this month, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is reporting an increase in the number of travel nurses they are utilizing, primarily linked to a decrease in staff nurses.

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Travel Nurse News And Opportunities

As the pandemic continues on in the U.S., the effects to the nursing workforce will become ever more apparent. On one hand, there has been an unfortunate increase in the nursing shortage that has already plagued the healthcare world. Many hospitals across the country are seeing a high number of staff nurses leaving their positions due to burnout, exhaustion, their own health needs or family responsibilities that may require them to be home more with their children. Some nurses were even laid off by hospitals during pandemic-related financial strains, and have elected not to return to work at all, or have found different employment.

And while a mass exodus of staff nurses is definitely not good for anyone, on the other hand, it does mean that the opportunity for travel nursing will only increase. Especially for travel nurses who have speciality experience, COVID-19 care experience or are simply well-versed in the unique challenges that travel nursing can entail (hello, moving cross-country with a day’s notice!), the demand may be especially high.

As of right now, the most in-demand specialties seem to be for travel nurses with ICU, MICU, ER, and general Med/Surg experience.

Currently, travel nursing job boards indicate these states and positions offer the highest pay rates:

  • California: $5K/week for ER and Med/Surg
  • Idaho: $4.8K/week for ICU
  • New York: $4.5K/week limited positions
  • Texas: averaging over $4K/week for MICU/ICU
  • Massachusetts: limited positions available for over $4K/week, especially in ICU and OR
  • Illinois, Iowa and Oregon: $4.3K/week for MICU/ICU
  • Indiana: $4K/week MICU/ICU
  • Washington: about $3.8K/weekly for ICU
  • Wisconsin: $3.8K/weekly, although some higher paying crisis rate positions are available

Remember, then nature of the game with travel nursing — and even more so in a pandemic — is that things can change very quickly, so be sure to keep your eyes peeling for new updates and job postings if you’re looking to take on a travel nursing assignment in the near future.

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USA Covid-19 Crisis map

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