By Esthefany Castillo – Until 2020-2021, increases in Covid-19 hospitalizations combined with staffing shortages forced many hospitals to rely on traveling nurses. As demand increased, the cost of travel nurse contracts also increased. However, as Covid-19 hospitalizations have declined, many traveling nurses are facing brutal pay cuts or illegal contract cancellations.
Covid-19 drives demand for travel nurses
According to recruitment industry analysts, in 2021, travel nursing revenue tripled to about $11.8 billion, up from $3.9 billion in 2015. Nurses who were ready to pack their bags and travel to a new hotspot every few months were earning up to $10,000 a week during the height of the pandemic. According to Kaiser Health News, at the height of the pandemic, nurse recruitment agencies were often paid up to $175 an hour for nurses willing to take on flex jobs. The shortage of nurses, which was a persistent problem in the United States before the pandemic, has hurt hospital profitability, as hospitals have had to raise the salaries not only of traveling nurses, but also of their regular staff, driving up the average salaries of nurses nationwide. .
Traveling nurses take pay cuts
However, as Covid-19 has seen some hospitalizations level off and states run out of pandemic relief funds, hospitals are now negotiating up to 50% lower contract rates with recruitment agencies and even canceling traveling nurse contracts. HCA chief executive Sam Hazen told the Wall Street Journal that spending on temporary staff was down about 22% in June 2022 compared to April. Bill Rutherford, Chief Financial Officer of HCA Hospital, predicted that “over the course of the year, we hope to see a reduction in the use of this contract labor.”
Weekly wages for temporary nurses are expected to continue to fall by 15% to $3,000, which will help hospitals improve their bottom line. Now some travel nurses are returning to full-time jobs, although they prefer the flexibility of being travel nurses. However, other nurses still accept travel positions, even at lower rates, as they usually always pay more than staff jobs. Despite the pay cut, travel nurses will continue to be essential to the industry as long as the United States continues to have a nursing shortage.