Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel nurses have been a constant topic of conversation within the medical field, often necessary to fill in the gaps left by the surges. However, as efforts have leveled off concerning that particular crisis, the nursing shortage remains, as does the demand for travel nurses.
Graduates of a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program — such as that from Radford University — have the skills to succeed in the nursing field and pursue the lucrative, in-demand role of travel nurse.
What Is Driving the Demand for Travel Nurses?
Several factors are driving the demand for travel nurses. Travel nurses typically work on short-term contracts for hospitals and health systems seeking to shore up their in-house workforce. During the height of the pandemic, travel nurses frequently stepped in for nurses who were out due to illness or quarantine. They also staffed the expanding COVID patient wings and covered critical positions in the few departments left open to treat non-COVID patients.
Today, as the urgency of the pandemic has subsided, travel nurses may fill positions in virtually any department where nursing shortages remain, from the emergency room and physician practices to post-operative recovery and walk-in clinics. In addition, healthcare facilities are back to full patient loads, and in some cases, the demand for services may be greater than before due to patients delaying care.
According to one study published in JAMA Network Open, 41% of U.S. adults avoided seeking care during the initial months of the pandemic, potentially leading to increased complications, costs and delayed diagnoses that have more success when treated early.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) says that hospitals have seen greater patient acuity since the pandemic’s onset, with the average length of stay rising 10% from 2019 to 2021. Caring for patients who are sicker and for longer uses more resources and has been a major driver of labor costs, says the AHA, possibly contributing to the ongoing need for travel nurses.
For these reasons, healthcare organizations expect continued demand for travel nurses, as reported by Healthcare Dive. Leadership at one nurse staffing agency said, “We don’t have a reason to believe that [demand for travel nurses is] going to go back at all to pre-pandemic levels.” However, other elements are propelling continued demand, particularly seasonal rises in illnesses such as the flu, threats of a new COVID variant and natural disasters driving demand in specific areas.
What Skills Do Travel Nurses Need?
Like staff nurses, travel nurses require clinical knowledge and interpersonal skills to succeed in their roles. Graduates of Radford University’s online RN to BSN program will develop many skills to make them ideal candidates for travel nursing and ready to assist communities of all kinds in caring for their patient’s needs. Strong clinical and communication skills, adaptability and a willingness to embrace new experiences can help travel nurses thrive in these meaningful roles.
Where Are Travel Nurses Most In-Demand?
Demand for travel nurses remains steady nationwide but is particularly high in some locations, especially metropolitan areas. According to travel nursing recruiter Health Carousel, the top 10 cities seeking travel nurses are:
- Los Angeles, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Louis, Missouri
- Chicago, Illinois
- Austin, Texas
- Miami, Florida
- Atlanta, Georgia
- New York City
- Richmond, Virginia
What Specialties Are Travel Nurses Most Needed?
Some specialties experience a greater need for travel nurses based on regional differences and seasonal demand. However, intensive care units, emergency departments, medical-surgical floors and home health are some specialties still experiencing high demand.
How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?
The salary for travel nurses can vary based on several factors, such as the specialty, location, experience level and the specific terms of their travel nursing assignment. Still, travel nurses typically earn higher compensation than staff nurses due to the variability of their schedules and the additional benefits they receive, like sign-on bonuses and housing and meal stipends. Average weekly rates may approach $3K in some circumstances.
The demand for travel nurses remains high after COVID-19 for several reasons, including hospitals that need to catch up on delayed care and fill vacant staff positions. Until then, travel nurses are crucial in providing healthcare support where it is most needed.
Learn more about Radford University’s RN to BSN online program.