At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel nurses were earning as much as $10,000 a week. Seems unbelievable, right?
But at that time, with the sheer volume of patient intake combined with increasing nurse shortages in the country, hospitals had no choice.
So what happens now? Is travel nursing sustainable?
We examine current trends in the travel nursing industry and help you decide if it’s the right career for you.
Table of Contents
- Is Travel Nursing Sustainable?
- Travel Nursing Sustainability: The Facility’s Perspective
- Travel Nursing Sustainability: The Traveler’s Perspective
- The Nursing Shortage: 5 Reasons the Healthcare Industry Will Continue To Sustain Travel Nursing
- Travel Nursing Sustainability FAQs
- Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping Travel Nurses Navigate the Industry
Is Travel Nursing Sustainable?
The days of exorbitant pay rates may have ended for now. But does that mean travel nursing is a dying career? Not necessarily.
While many facilities feel the strain of hiring travel nurses, the demand hasn’t decreased nearly enough to eliminate the need.
More travel nurses may be returning to permanent staffing jobs with the boom having essentially ended, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t still make more money.
So, is travel nursing sustainable? Let’s take a closer look at the perspectives of both the facility and the nurse.
Travel Nursing Sustainability: The Facility’s Perspective
For many facilities, travel nursing is not sustainable. It costs more for healthcare providers and can raise the cost of healthcare delivery. It also poses another issue of animosity among permanent staff.
Travel nurses are just as competent as any other nurse. However, because they’re unfamiliar with the policies, culture, and personalities within each facility, staff nurses may feel cheated for being paid less for doing the same job.
However, the need for travel nurses will never end.
Travel nurses are needed to:
- Fill maternity leave
- Increase staff levels during tourist seasons
- Help during natural disaster relief efforts
- Lessen the burden during disease outbreaks
- Ease the pressure of ongoing staff shortages
As much as a healthcare facility may try to eliminate the need for travel nurses, it’s never going to go away completely.
Is Travel Nurse Pay Sustainable?
While travel nurses have always made more than staff nurses, the rates recently increased to unprecedented levels. From January 2020 to December 2021, the industry saw a 99.47% increase in salaries. Demand soared during the pandemic but is beginning to level off.
If pandemic-level salaries continued, travel nurse pay wouldn’t be sustainable. The average salary of a travel nurse in 2023 is $2,039 per week, while the average staff nurse makes just $1,520 per week.
When you partner with Trusted Nurse Staffing, you’re partnering with the best in the industry. Not only are our pay rates the highest among travel nurse agencies, but we offer 24/7 support. Our nurses always feel at home wherever they go.
Contact one of our trusted partners or download the Pronto app and begin viewing available postings today.
Travel Nursing Sustainability: The Traveler’s Perspective
The sustainability of travel nursing depends entirely on the nurse and will vary from traveler to traveler.
If you’re considering becoming a travel nurse, ask yourself whether moving every 13 weeks will get tiring. Or perhaps you would miss having a strong team of people who know what to expect, how the facility operates, and where everything is. Perhaps you may feel lonely without your family and friends.
On the other hand, maybe you love adventure and can’t wait to see the country on your terms while getting paid. Or maybe you’re tired of mandated overtime, hospital management, and workplace politics. Perhaps you have financial goals and want to earn more for a few years.
Asking yourself the right questions will help you determine if it’s the path for you. It might even help to make a pros and cons list.
Either way, remember that travel nursing doesn’t have to be permanent. With this understanding, we recommend you take it one assignment at a time and just have fun!
Seasoned Travel Nurses vs. Newer Travel Nurses
Some seasoned travel nurses may feel jaded at the reduction in salaries over the last year. However, pandemic salaries were not only unsustainably high, but the demand for travel nurses has since decreased.
For newer nurses, the current average salary may seem very attractive. Not only is it higher than it was before the pandemic, but it’s also substantially higher than what a staff nurse makes and includes a slew of benefits, bonuses, and perks.
Certain states, Arizona, offer above-average salaries for travel nurses and have a relatively low cost of living. This means travel nurses can save even more money with the right assignment.
And because the demand for travel nurses doesn’t seem to be waning too much, it shouldn’t be difficult to find back-to-back assignments — or even extensions to a current assignment that you love.
The Nursing Shortage: 5 Reasons the Healthcare Industry Will Continue To Sustain Travel Nursing
The nursing profession continues to face shortages across the United States. As a result, many facilities have no choice but to hire travel nurses.
Taking all factors into consideration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment projections for the Registered Nursing workforce and found that it’s expected to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031. That amounts to 203,200 openings for RNs each year.
But what is causing these massive shortages in nursing? From retirement to burnout, many factors are contributing to the rising need for nurses in the U.S.
As of 2020, the average age of a Registered Nurse was 52 years old, signaling a potentially large wave of retirements over the next 10 years.
Furthermore, the average retirement age of a Registered Nurse is 58 years old, meaning that nurses are exiting the profession sooner than the average retirement age for other professions.
#2: High Patient Demand
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that by 2034, there will be 77 million people 65 years or older. The rising number of older adults is putting strain on the healthcare system as the need for geriatric care increases.
As chronic diseases are rising to epidemic levels — with 40% of Americans living with two or more chronic conditions — the need for nursing care increases.
Insufficient staffing combined with the lasting impact of the pandemic, nurses report higher levels of stress and lower levels of job satisfaction.
When surveyed, 29% of nurses in the U.S. considered leaving the profession in 2021, compared to just 11% in 2020.
Primary motivators cited by nurses who expressed a desire to quit or retire early include:
- Low wages
- Work-life balance
- Unreasonable workloads
- Negative health effects
- Experiences during the pandemic
- Inability to deliver quality care; and
- Stress and exhaustion
Quite frankly, many nurses are burnt out and ready to make a change.
#4: Transition to Advanced Roles
The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031 for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists is expected to increase by 40%. This need is prompting many nurses to leave nursing to pursue advanced roles that don’t require bedside care.
Not only do these positions pay more, but it’s more likely to find stabilized hours, making it an attractive option for any RN willing to invest the time and money into furthering their education.
#5: Decline in Available Nursing Educators
While interest in the profession remains strong, thousands of qualified students are turned down for four-year college and university nursing programs.
In 2021, a whopping 91,938 qualified applications were rejected nationwide — 76,140 of which were for entry-level baccalaureate programs.
The barriers to accepting every qualified student primarily come down to a lack of faculty, preceptors, and classroom space. Budget cuts and insufficient clinical placement sites are also contributors to this inability to enroll enough nursing students to cover current and ongoing shortages.
Travel Nursing Sustainability FAQs
What Is the Current Demand for Travel Nurses?
While many claim that the travel nurse gold rush is over, the demand for travel nurses is still higher than pre-pandemic levels and is expected to continue to rise.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor indicated that more than 195,000 nursing positions are currently open, and the industry will see an increase of about 6% over the next eight years.
Due to this overabundance of nursing jobs and lack of qualified nurses, healthcare facilities are relying on travel nurses more than ever.
The need is especially great in these states:
- North Carolina
What Nursing Specialties Are in Demand?
Travel nurses with specialization training are typically in higher demand than those without.
Some of the most sought-after nursing specialties include:
- Emergency Room
- Intensive Care
- Progressive Care Unit
- Operating Room
- Labor and Delivery
Obtaining or possessing education and experience in any of these specialties will open up the opportunity for more job options and higher wages.
How Do You Personally Decide if Travel Nursing Is Sustainable?
When deciding if travel nursing is sustainable for you, it’s important to ask yourself what your reasons are for considering the profession.
Consider your answers to these questions:
- Are you a passionate nurse with an even greater passion for exploring new places?
- You might find travel nursing to be incredibly rewarding, which can ultimately make it a sustainable career choice.
- Are you looking for greater flexibility and more time off?
- You may enjoy the short assignments with the option of taking a break between assignments.
- Do you dread the idea of going to the same place of work year after year?
- The change of scenery travel nursing offers might excite you.
- Have you ever found yourself striking up a conversation with strangers on the bus or in the grocery store?
- Meeting new people might be your thing, in which case, travel nursing could be right up your alley.
Beyond the higher salaries, there are many reasons nurses are turning to travel nursing. But to decide if it’s right for you, making a pros and cons list and speaking to a travel nurse recruiter might be exactly what you need.
Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping Travel Nurses Navigate the Industry
Trusted Nurse Staffing is here to help. We treat our travel nurses like family. From the highest wages in the industry to unmatched benefits and 24/7 support, you can rest assured knowing that we have your back.
If you’re wondering whether travel nursing is sustainable, contact one of our trusted partners today. We are available to answer all of your questions and address any concerns.
What have you got to lose? Call us or download our Pronto app and start searching for travel nurse jobs today.