Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
Chaunie Brusie BSN, RN
May 21, 2020 - 4 min read

Demand for Travel Nurses In COVID Hot Spots Slows

According to the most recent data, after an initial surge in March and April, the demand for travel nurses has slowed significantly heading into the summer months.

Hard-hit areas such as Washington and New York City, which preemptively hired travel nurses in record numbers — and sometimes for record wages — have slowed their hiring and canceled many contracts. Although COVID-related travel nursing jobs are still available across the country, some with crisis wages, the numbers are not as high as they were through the past two months.

The future of travel nursing in the next coming months may be difficult to predict, but here is more on what we think travel nurses should prepare for.

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How COVID Impacted Travel Nursing

As you can imagine, COVID had a significant impact on the travel nursing industry, especially in areas where COVID affected higher numbers of people or had more severe health effects. The demand for critical care specialties, like ICU and ER, jumped considerably, while other nursing areas actually saw a significant decrease in demand.

Data shows that the following areas saw the largest increase in demand for travel nurses:

  • ICU/Critical Care – increased of 59%
  • RNFA increased of 64%
  • ER/Trauma – increased of 62%
  • Med/Surg – increased of 14%

The data also revealed that certain areas of the country had the most significant increases in travel nurse demand:

  • Washington – 93% increase
  • Rhode Island – 87% increase
  • Massachusetts – 79% increase
  • South Dakota – 76% increase
  • New Jersey – 63% increase
  • New York – 61% increase

And of course, you can’t forget the pay increases. Thanks to crisis pay, rapid response pay, bonuses, and other reimbursements for emergency-declared areas, travel nursing wages in crisis positions went up a whopping 76% in some areas.

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What the Future Might Hold for Travel Nursing

If you had hoped to sign up for a COVID travel nursing assignment, there are still positions available. A search on some of the leading travel nurse job listing pages, such as TaleMed, reveal crisis COVID-19 positions scattered around the country from Florida to New Hampshire. While the intense demand may have waned, there are still some areas offering crisis COVID-19 wages, so if that’s the type of position you’re looking for, it comes down to finding an area that you’re willing to travel to.

Some healthcare facilities may also find they are in need of travel nurses as they reopen previously closed services, such as elective procedural units, or offices. For instance, data showed that the demand for nursing roles in the following areas decreased as a result of COVID:

  • Pain Management – down by 49%
  • PICU – down by 29%
  • Pediatrics – down by 28%
  • OR – down by 16%

With the reopening, it’s feasible to expect that the job demand for those areas will once again rise, and may even be higher than before the shutdowns were enacted, due to demand and staff availability. For instance, there may be a large influx of patients who delayed care or staff who had been laid off may elect not to return at all, leaving gaps in the workforce. And as the entire country has started the reopening process, it’s also possible that additional COVID hotspots could crop up among states that had previously low numbers.

The future of travel nursing may also pivot to include more non-clinical roles. For instance, some healthcare staffing agencies, such as AMN, are prepping for a future workforce that will need more skilled labor solutions away from the bedside, such as data analysis, case management, and clinical documentation improvement. Although non-clinical roles are not traditionally travel nursing positions, there may be a larger need in the future for healthcare facilities to turn to travel nurses to fill temporary non-clinical needs.

The Bottom Line

Overall, just like health experts aren’t entirely sure how this virus will affect the country in the coming months, there’s a lot to be seen about what the demands will be for travel nurses.

What is certain, however, is that the need for travel nurses will never go away. So if you’re considering taking a travel RN position in the future–or just curious to explore the possibility — now is a great time to get started on all of the preliminary steps you need to sign on. Your checklist should include:

  • Making sure all your paperwork is up-to-date
  • Ensuring you have a multi-state RN license
  • Researching arrangements you’d need to actually leave for a job — such as finding a pet sitter, updating your passport, or decluttering your apartment to make moving easier.

And if you do decide to take a COVID position, keep in mind that many of the benefits offered to travel nurses during the peak of the infection, like free housing, meals, and even transportation, are waning or no longer available. Although that shouldn’t affect your pay rate or ability to do your job as a travel nurse, it’s just a good reminder to be sure to check your contract over extra carefully before taking on any assignments, as we’ve all seen how quickly circumstances can change in the world of healthcare.

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