Rose McMackin
Rose McMackin
July 21, 2020 - 6 min read

These Travel Nursing Specialties In Demand As COVID Cases Rise

Specific travel nursing specialties are in demand as COVID-19 is making a comeback in certain parts of the country — especially in southern states like Florida and Texas, as well as Arizona and some isolated parts of the nation as well.

However, even previously hard-hit places like California have seen an increase in spikes lately too, and inconsistent rules and regulations on how to best manage the infection have made it difficult to flatten the curve in some areas as well. With nice weather, relaxed attitudes over gatherings, and less fear about the virus in general as the public has grown accustomed to living with it, infection rates are still rising in many areas.

For instance, Florida broke its own single-day record, reaching 13,965 new cases and 156 deaths on July 16, 2020. Miami, FL has been compared to Wuhan, where the outbreak first occurred, and so far, case counts keep rising, so the future could very well hold even more hospitalizations.

Other states that have reported increasing COVID-19 infections and related hospitalizations include Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and California. And according to data from NPR, COVID cases have increased by over 100% in Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana, as well as in Puerto Rico, when compared to only 2 weeks ago, so the next hot spot could very well be lurking just around the corner.

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What the Future Might Hold for COVID-19 Cases

Because of how the novel coronavirus works, an increase in infections now often means a risk of hospitalization later. The virus has a 2-week or so incubation period, which means that if you are infected right now, it may not be two weeks before you show any symptoms at all. And then, it’s common for more serious complications to show up much later the initial positive test as well.

So, what does that mean? Essentially, that means that all those new positive COVID-19 cases in current hot spots like Florida and Texas may not even require hospitalizations for a few weeks down the line — and if those hospitalizations do occur, travel nurses will be needed to help care for an increased patient load.

It’s expected that infections will only continue to rise, as people have continued to gather and embark in recreational activities during the warm weather. For example, even on the day when case counts reached over 10,000 in Florida, Disney World opened its doors to welcome park-goers back for the first time since the pandemic hit.

The approaching fall also holds a lot of unknowns for how infections and subsequent complications could affect the country. Some areas are planning on resuming in-person school with modifications, like requiring students to wear masks and extra cleaning, and some states, like Georgia have struck down state-wide mandates on facial coverings in public, so there are a wide variety of beliefs on how to best manage the virus. Only time will tell what the result of the different ways the virus is being managed will result in for public health — as well as any potential demand for more travel nurses.

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What Does This Mean for Travel Nurses?

A spike in COVID-19 cases across the country means that there could be increased opportunities for travel nursing positions in hard-hit areas. And if you’ve already had experience working in a COVID unit, you can be a valuable asset to any travel nursing agency.

In states that are currently experiencing outbreaks of COVID, you may be especially critical if you have experience in certain specialties. Hospitals and facilities that are dealing with COVID may not be prioritizing certain elective procedures or may be in need of more trained specialty nurses, so if you have experience or specialization certifications in the following areas, you may be in more demand.

ICU and COVID-ICU

Travel nursing jobs in general ICU and COVID-ICU have a wide range at the moment because needs are so varied. In higher-demand areas like Texas and Arizona, ICU travel nursing assignments are offering rates between $2-$4k per week. Florida, on the other hand, has some $5K+ positions available.

Hemodialysis

We are learning more about how COVID affects the vascular system, and some patients have experienced vascular complications, including blood clots and DVTS. Hemodialysis has been needed for some patients, in addition to regular dialysis patients, and travel nurses are wanted in some states to help meet those needs. Nurses with hemodialysis experience can earn up to $3.7K/week and as a bonus: most hemodialysis positions are day shift only if nights just aren’t your thing.

Telemetry

Telemetry is also high in demand, as it’s the first stop for many patients admitted with COVID or COVID-like symptoms for monitoring. In Arizona, telemetry travel RN positions have been seen for as high as $5.5K on night shift and closer to the $3K range in Massachusetts.

ER

Florida again tops the list for ER travel nurse jobs, hovering right around the $5.5K mark. Texas is a close second, with ER positions being offered around $4.8K per week. Arizona ER positions are a bit lower, with an average of $3-$4K weekly pay.

Med-Surg

Can you guess where the highest-paying Med-Surg state is right now? If you guessed Oklahoma, you would be right — the Route 66 state has been trending upwards in COVID cases and is offering rates as high as $5.8K/week for general Med-Surg right now. South Dakota, Arizona, and Texas are all also seeking travel nurses with specializations in Med-Surg in the $3 -$4K range.

If you have been infected with the novel coronavirus yourself, or have tested positive for the antibodies, you may also (rightly so) be wondering how that could affect your employment potential. In a way, having COVID already might be considered a “specialty” of its own. But while it can be definitely helpful if you want to share that information with your nurse recruiter if you choose to do so, as of right now, there are no official policies that are granting preference for nurses with COVID-19 antibodies.

Some antibody tests are still being tested for accuracy, and some may have been faulty to begin with, so more research on their validity is needed. In addition, because the novel coronavirus is, well, novel, scientists still aren’t 100% sure what mutations of the virus may look like — and what that could mean for potential reinfection rates.

And even if you have already tested for antibodies or have had a negative COVID-19 test, you can expect that any new assignments you sign on for will require you to get tested again. Every facility will have its own policy and procedure for testing and monitoring travel nurses.

The data with COVID-19 infections is constantly changing and one of the hardest parts for hospitals is being ready for what the numbers will look like in two weeks from now–not just right now. As we mentioned already, because of the way the virus works, with an approximately 2-week incubation period, as well as a sometimes delayed onset of more serious symptoms that could require hospitalization, new infections today could turn into new hospitalizations in weeks or even months from now.

How to Take on a Travel Nursing Position

The large uncertainty about what COVID will look like this fall, along with any complications from new infections now, means that your services as a travel nurse may be especially important in the weeks and months to come. You are a valuable asset as a travel nurse, especially if you have experience in one of the in-demand specialties or have experience working with COVID-19 patients already.

To best position yourself to take on the right travel nursing assignment, it’s important to be prepared as far in advance as possible, so you are ready to take on an assignment when one is available. You’ll want to reach out to recruiters now, be sure you have your paperwork and compact nursing license in order (if necessary), and can make arrangements to travel quickly should an assignment come up without a lot of notice.

Additionally, if you are interested in expanding your skillset to one of the more in-demand specialties, now is a good time to pursue certification in those areas so you can add that to your travel nursing resume. More specialization means more money when it comes to travel nursing jobs, so follow your passion so you can give back and take care of your patients while reaching your highest potential.

Talk to a recruiter about available assignments for your specialty.

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