News: Are Hospitals using Travel Nurses again?

June 19, 2012

Why is it important for hospital executives to know if other hospitals are using Travel Nurses? Travel Nurses are a strong indicator of the demand for nurses overall and if there is going to be a shortage again, it is best to start preparing.

It is important to take a look back to understand the last couple of years in hospitals’ usage of Travel Nurses.  Prior to 2009, the Travel Nurse industry was in high swing and about 40,000 Travel Nurses were being used monthly throughout the US. When the 2009 recession came along, the use of Travel Nurses in Hospitals decreased by 50% to about 20,000 nurses.  The healthcare industry, that many thought was recession proof, discovered that they were just as reliant on the economy as any other business/organization. Many Travel Nurse Agencies went out of business and, for the first time, there was a surplus of Registered Nurses in the United States for the following 2 years.

Travel Registered Nurses, who typically traveled for a living, decided that it was best to take permanent jobs, and Hospitals found that they did not have enough patients to justify the perceived higher expense of Travel Nurses. However, during this time, more people started going into nursing school during the recession with intentions of becoming Registered Nurses and RN’s who didn’t practice in Hospitals started coming back to hospitals to help their families with additional income.

In October of 2011, Travel Staffing companies started seeing a strong rebound in Travel orders from Hospitals and in 2012, Travel Nurse Agencies saw pay rates to Travelers rising for the first time in 3 years in order for Hospitals to attract nurses to fill their job openings which went unfilled for the first time in 3 years.

With an increase of Registered Nurses, why is it that the Travel Nurse jobs are increasing so significantly now? One reason we are hearing is that patients are coming into hospitals with much more complicated conditions and it requires very experienced skilled Nurses, not recent graduates or general nurses, to handle these patients. The need for Critical Care, Operating Room, Emergency Room, Cardiac, and other specialty nursing is what is driving the demand for Travel Nurses and as a result, rates are going up to attract the talented RN’s.  Hospitals thinking that they can fill their positions quickly and at older rates will be surprised at how long it will take to fill their open positions.

If you are a Hospital, what you are starting to see is the return of the nursing shortages due to the fact that there is a shortage of SKILLED Registered Nurses.