Travel Nurses Earn Up to $10K/Week As COVID Cases Rise
As the pandemic rages on, demand for travel nurses is more intense than ever — and travel nurses are making more money than ever. As COVID-19 cases rise across the country, one thing has become clear: there aren’t nearly enough nurses to keep up.
Across the country, the number of nurses and other healthcare staff are at critically low levels. Ohio’s governor called the lack of nurses available to work in his state “shocking” and Florida nurses are pleading for help after watching staff nurses dwindle down to unsafe numbers.
The nationwide shortage of nurses has led to an unparalleled demand for travel nurses, especially those trained in ICU work. And that unparalleled demand also means, of course, unparalleled paychecks.
Travel Nurses in Demand
Simply put, the travel nursing industry has exploded. According to data from NurseFly, five states in the U.S. have seen 200% growth in demand for ICU nurses, from Delaware to a whopping 441% increase in Hawaii.
Why the explosive growth? It’s because of COVID-19 — both directly and indirectly.
For instance, increasing numbers of staff nurses are getting infected or placed on quarantine, reducing the number of available staff. In some places, like hard-hit North Dakota, this has prompted officials to permit COVID-positive healthcare staff to continue providing care for patients.
COVID has also led some staff nurses to leave their nursing positions in hopes of better protections and better pay elsewhere. Some staff nurses are striking, fed up with being asked to continue working in what they say are unsafe conditions for both them and patients. And in some situations, the combination of staff strikes or exoduses make travel nursing even more appealing, because travel nursing agencies may be able to provide benefits that staff hospitals just can’t, from crisis pay to assurance of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The pandemic has also put travel nurses in the demand spotlight in a new way. In the beginning of the COVID-19 surge, the virus was hitting only certain parts of the country hard, like New York. Dealing with isolated outbreaks was easier because travel nurses could be mobilized and sent to the hardest-hit areas. But now, every area is hard-hit. That means that travel nurses are needed all across the country.
Behind Those High Paychecks
While the demand for travel nurses may be good news for travel nurses who are able and willing to take on short-term COVID assignments and earn a considerably high paycheck, the sudden surge for demand for travel nurses also carries some caveats.
For one thing, lucrative travel nursing assignments may be drawing staff nurses away from rural hospitals where they are so desperately needed. Smaller, rural hospitals simply can’t compete with the type of benefits and pay that a travel nursing agency can command and even more, smaller, rural hospitals may be more affected by the loss of staff nurses than a larger hospital or facility because they don’t have the means or the people available to replace them.
Another hard-to-fathom effect is that if nurses are flocking only to well-paying positions, real patients will be affected. Hospitals and facilities with less resources will definitely suffer in a way that those with deeper pockets won’t because they simply won’t be able to attract the same type of trained talent.
So, do these difficult considerations mean that travel nurses shouldn’t be taking the high-paying positions available to them? Absolutely not! Travel nursing exists for a reason and that reason is more evident today than ever. For hospitals that need them, travel nurses are saving lives and swooping in to save the day on strapped and over-stressed units. “This is the warmest welcome I’ve ever had as a travel nurse,” one travel nurse in Lansing, MI told The Washington Post. “They are so happy to have another pair of hands.
Taking Care of Travel Nurses
If you are considering taking a position as a travel nurse, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be aware of burnout. Taking job after job of high-intensity COVID assignments may start to take their toll. Be aware of the signs of burnout and consider taking a break between assignments so you can ensure you properly rest and refuel. (And the high pay rate of jobs right now makes this even easier to do!)
- Take advantage of mental health benefits offered by your agency. In that same vein, be sure to get familiar with any mental health benefits offered by your agency or employer. Many agencies are offering healthcare workers some kind of telehealth service for mental health and especially if you’re working stressful shifts and are isolated from family and friends, accessing those resources can be life-changing.
- Establish boundaries. As a travel nurse, you are allowed to set up boundaries that work for you and now, you may have the opportunity to be even more selective than ever about taking assignments that work for you. Establish your boundaries ahead of time so you can use them to guide which assignments you are willing to take.
- Take breaks when you need them. If you’re trained in an in-demand specialty like ICU or COVID-ICU right now, it can be easy to get swept up in taking on more and more work. And while nurses are in short supply right now, your health should always come first. Take care of yourself and take breaks when you need it — because the beauty of travel nursing is that the next job will definitely be there when you’re ready to take it on.