The COVID-19 pandemic intensified hospitals’ reliance on travel nurses to address staffing shortages and highlighted the gap between full-time workers’ pay and lucrative temporary contracts. In the third year of the pandemic, hospitals continue to rely on travel nurses and grapple with workforce shortages for a variety of reasons. However, some organizations have reduced their reliance on travel nurses, and pay overall is lower compared to certain points of the pandemic, experts told Becker’s.
Here are seven travel nurse pay trends for healthcare leaders to know, per Vivian Health, a national healthcare hiring marketplace used by about 800,000 clinicians, and AMN Healthcare, a medical staffing firm based in Coppell, Texas:
1. The average weekly travel nurse pay in July in the U.S. was $2,997, up 12 percent from $2,681 during the same time in 2021, according to a report from Vivian Health. The report, which was shared with Becker’s, is based on proprietary data of job postings on Vivian Health in July.
2. Among states, Alaska saw the largest average increase to travel nurse pay in July compared to the same time in 2021, according to the Vivian Health report. Florida saw the largest average decrease.
3. When taking a month-over-month view of 2022, average travel nurse pay is declining and coming back to last year’s levels, according to Vivian Health. The company cited several factors for this trend, such as a shift away from travel roles and toward permanent nursing roles as well as less federal money being shifted toward hospitals for large travel contracts.
4. Rishabh Parmar, head of strategy and operations at Vivian Health, told Becker’s: “Compared with July 2021, we still see that travel rates are higher [year over year] — close to around 12 percent to 15 percent — but it seems to be stabilized. Now, in terms of the demand, there’s still a lot of demand out there.”
5. Mr. Parmar estimated that available travel nurse jobs on Vivian Health’s platform doubled in July 2021 compared to pre-pandemic numbers in March 2020. As of July 2022, they were at 2.7 times the rate of March 2020 job numbers.
6. AMN Healthcare also reported lower rates. “According to a recent earnings call, AMN Healthcare expects the company will exit 2022 with travel nurse and allied healthcare professional bill rates at approximately 30 percent lower than first-quarter levels,” the company told Becker’s. “Though demand for travel nurses and allied professionals has declined from an all-time high in Q1, the company expects persistent vacancies and labor shortages to continue.”
7. Some hospitals “are saying, ‘We need to use travel nurses, we just have to use [travel contracts] at lower rates,'” Mr. Parmar said. Some organizations are also offering internal travel programs amid an opportunity to attract workers while decreasing contract labor expenses.