Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
November 16, 2020 - 3 min read

How Flu Season and COVID-19 Will Affect Travel Nursing

The upcoming flu season has the potential to be one of the most important and potentially deadliest in recent history because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With COVID case numbers on the rise across the country, preparing for this winter is even more important than ever. There is an ever-increasing need to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses and a push for vaccination. It’s interesting to note that most healthcare systems are not currently accepting flu vaccine waivers and are requiring all employees to receive a flu vaccine.

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Flu Season + COVID-19: What does it mean?

While impossible to determine how severe the flu season will be, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, travel nursing could very likely be affected again. During the first wave of the pandemic, hospitals stopped all elective surgeries and saw a decrease in inpatient hospitalizations. Travel nursing was more or less halted since March.

Thousands of travel nurses across the country were laid off and contracts were canceled. COVID-19 hotspots brought in crisis travel nurses for temporary assignments while staff nurses throughout the country were without work.

It’s impossible to determine exactly how COVID and the flu season will continue to affect travel nursing but it is safe to say travel nurses will continue to adapt to the ever-changing environment. With so many unknowns, it is essential that travel nurses secure assignments as soon as possible. It is harder for a hospital to cancel a contract once it has started than to cancel a contract that hasn’t started yet.

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How Hospitals Are Responding To Flu Season + COVID-19

Hospitals have learned from the first COVID surge the resources needed to survive another wave of COVID. Healthcare systems are taking into account flu season as well to determine the needs of the different units. Anticipated needs are currently driving the openings for travel nurses and they will fill quickly. Travel nurses can expect to see shorter length contracts, for 6 or 8 weeks, versus the traditional 13-week contracts. Furthermore, hospitals are currently less likely to extend contracts early as needs are constantly changing. Travel nurses are not only filling the void to cover the influx of sick patients but also to fill gaps in staffing when permanent staff are out sick or on quarantine.

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Finding Travel Nursing Assignments During Flu Season & the COVID-19 Pandemic

In order for travel nurses to continue to find assignments, it is important more than ever to prevent getting sick or spreading germs to others. These recommendations are more important than ever due to COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season. The CDC recommends nurses and their patients:

  • Get vaccinated early! It’s not too late!
  • Avoid close contact with sick individuals
  • Wear a mask when in public (currently COVID guidelines but applicable for the flu as well)
  • Get plenty of sleep, reduce stress, increase physical activity, minimizing alcohol intake, and eat a nutritious well-balanced diet
  • Practice good hand hygiene including washing your hands for 30 seconds and use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available
  • Stay home while sick for at least 24 hours after symptoms have stopped
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and/or mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces including cell phones, iPads, and Apple watches

The aftermath of this pandemic and flu season will only continue to highlight the need for nurses and the predicted shortage. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing predicts that there will be a need for 203,700 new nurses each year through 2026. This figure was determined before the pandemic and the stress COVID and the flu season are taking on healthcare providers. Travel nurses will continue to fill these needs.

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