Travel Nursing Post-Pandemic
The world of travel nursing is about to see the return of “normal” health needs.
During the pandemic, people postponed their normal preventative healthcare visits and illnesses like the flu stopped circulating as people adopted masks and social distancing. But as COVID-19 numbers continue to decrease across the country, healthcare is going to change again.
Here’s what that might mean for travel nursing.
Travel Nursing & the Return of Preventive Care
Many people put off regular preventive care, elective procedures and non-emergent surgeries during the pandemic. This means there’s likely to be an influx of healthcare needs as life returns back to normal.
“I have been seeing a huge need nation-wide in OR and pre/post-op RNs along with surgical and sterile techs,” says Heather Cherveny, ADEX Travel Healthcare Sr. Recruiter. “Typically, after the New Year you see those needs diminishing — not this year! The needs have been ongoing due to surgeries being canceled last year. The rates for these types of nurses are still pretty good in the travel market.”
If you’re a travel nurse with experience or interest in the following areas, you’ll likely have an easier time finding a travel nursing position easily in the coming months:
- Pain management
- Urgent care
- Home health (as many patients are coming home sick from hospital stays)
Cherveny notes that rates for travel nurses have stabilized to pre-pandemic rates, although there are a few exceptions.
For example, she says she has been seeing a trend towards higher pay rates for Med/Surg nurses, which she notes is “very unusual.” This is likely because many hospitals are short-staffed even on general floors — particularly as patients continue to come to the hospital for COVID complications.
Travel Nurses & Post-Pandemic Staffing Shortages
Travel nurses played a large and heroic role in the COVID pandemic and they may soon come to the rescue once again.
With many staff nurses burned out from the pandemic (many nurses even retired early), hospitals are turning to travel nurses to fill the gaps.
For instance, according to one hospital system, permanent vacancies are up about 20%. With nursing shortages only predicted to increase over the coming years, those won’t be easy to fill right away.
The pandemic itself prompted some nurses to try travel nursing for the first time, an industry shift that’s likely to persist, says Cherveny. She notes the many pros of travel nursing, from premium rates, opportunity to travel, flexibility, work/life balance, and benefits such as 401(k), vacation time, healthcare insurance, short-term disability, and life insurance — all of which prompted many staff nurses to take notice.
“[For the first time], the travel field is flooded with nurses,” she says. “The pandemic pay rates encouraged a lot of nurses to get out of their comfort zone and try travel nursing.”
Travel Nursing & the Return of the Flu
The fall is likely to bring significant demand for travel nurses, especially with uncertain COVID predictions and the likely return of other viral infections, including the flu.
Flu rates have been at historical lows in the 2019-2020 season.
Experts are unsure of what that means for the future. It could mean many people who would have acquired natural immunities will now be lacking those antibodies. That could mean a more severe flu season (it usually peaks in December or February), which could lead to an increase in travel nursing positions in doctor’s offices, urgent care facilities, ERs and ICUs, for both pediatric and adult populations.
A lot could change in the next few months but Cherveny predicts that one thing will stay the same: the need for travel nurses will remain high.
She predicts that the high-demand travel positions of Med/Surg, Telemetry, ED and ICU nurses will continue and that overall, this past year has helped the rest of the world see how valuable travel nurses are to the healthcare industry.
“I think travel nursing will continue to grow as it was a spotlight this past year with many hospitals in high demand for agency help,” she says. “We are a great resource and I think many corporations have realized that after this year.”