Travel Nursing Trends – A Look Ahead
Nursing is currently and will continue to be one of the professions in high demand over the coming years. Because there is so much need for highly skilled RNs, travel nursing is growing as well.
Travel nurses work as contractors through an agency, taking on assignments for a few weeks at a time. They are sent to areas to help fill the talents gaps at hospitals and other medical facilities. What started as a way to help health care facilities in smaller cities and rural areas fill their talent gaps has grown into a thriving niche career for RNs.
Over the last few years, travel nursing has become an attractive option for those who wish to take their patient care skills on the road. Travel nurses who line up well-paying jobs throughout the year can earn salaries that are comparable to that of hospital staff RNs. They also enjoy other perks including having their travel and living expenses paid for. Add to that the ability to make your own schedule, and you can see why travel nursing is an appealing option for some people.
Take a look at some of the major trends impacting the travel nursing industry over the last couple of years, along with predictions as to what’s in store for travel nurses in the future.
The Nursing Shortage Grows
If you’ve done any research into the profession, you’re probably aware that there is a shortage of nursing professionals, and it’s likely to get worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, through 2022, there is expected to be 1 million job vacancies for registered nurses. This mostly has to do with a workforce that is reaching retirement age, and not enough younger nurses to take their place.
However, it also has to do with the demographics of the country, and its changing health care needs. The aging population has more senior citizens than ever before, many of whom will develop one or more chronic health conditions. As per U.S. Census data projections, by 2050, there will be 88.5 million people over the age of 65.
Looking ahead: As a result of the continuing nursing shortage, it could very well end up that medical centers begin to rely more and more on travel nurses and other contracted workers to meet this demand. In many cases, it is more cost-effective for them to bring in nurses as needed as opposed to hiring full-time staffers.
The Affordable Care Act
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulted in 20 million people gaining health insurance coverage. As a result, with the passing of this legislation, health care institutions and hospitals needed to pivot quickly, and travel nursing is one of the ways they were able to accommodate more patients.
Keiser Health News even attributed a 20-year high demand for travel nurses directly to the ACA.
Looking ahead: There’s no telling what will become of the ACA once President-Elect Trump takes office. He has promised to dismantle Obamacare, but any changes will likely happen incrementally over time. That being said, he has stated that he plans to keep the parts of ACA that have welcomed formerly uninsured people into the system. This policy includes making sure that those with preexisting conditions have access to healthcare, and allowing young adults up to age 26 to remain insured on their parent’s policies if needed.
Bigger roles for nurses
As medical organizations look to reduce costs, they are turning more and more to advanced nursing professionals (such as nurse practitioners) to take on larger roles so that fewer physicians are needed. Hiring or contracting more nurses can also help save money in the long run by reducing readmissions and costly medical errors.
Once again, bringing in travel nurses who are trained in a specific area – such as those with credentials to treat a specific condition like cancer, or who work exclusively with pediatric patients – has provided a solution for improving patient care.
Looking ahead: As more specialty nursing responsibilities emerge, top institutions will seek to find professionals who have the most up-to-date skills and certifications. It’s not just about filling job vacancies; it’s about finding the right professionals who have the exact skill sets needed. For some employers, working with a travel nursing agency helps simplify the recruiting process. In some cases, such as in Florida when senior citizens flock down during the winter months, travel nurses are the perfect solution to meet seasonal demand.
Overall, there probably won’t be any monumental shakeups in the travel nursing industry in the coming year. However, based on potential changes to the healthcare system, as well as the aging workforce, older population, and greater reliance on RNs and nurse practitioners, travel nurses will continue to find great opportunities to work across the country.