Travel nurse demand skyrockets as COVID-19 persists
Thursday, December 03, 2020
Traveling nurses continue to be in high demand as COVID-19 reemerges in the last two (cold) months of 2020. According to the staffing firms that recruit them for hospitals, high demand and short supply nationwide seem to be the order of the day.
The tight supply of nurses available drives prices higher, too, in a real lesson of supply and demand. Hospitals are increasing the rates they'll pay for talent. For example, average pay packages for ICU travel nurses in November were about $2,250 per week. That's about a 28% increase from 2019's average rates, according to recruiting firm NurseFly.
Likewise, other nursing jobs are paying up to $7,000 per week.
Throughout November, demand for travel nurses increased by more than 60%. According to San Diego-based Aya Healthcare, there were more than 27,200 open positions as of earlier this month. Thirty percent of currently available jobs are considered "crisis" nursing positions.
While some nurses are trying to select jobs that pay the most, others are selecting work in hospitals with ample personal protective equipment. Other factors include when positions open, where the job is, and housing availability.
Also, in a reflection of the times, caregivers are testing positive for COVID. As more nurses are forced to quarantine, hospitals need to be ready to cover their patients' care. For example, the Mayo Clinic has been hit hard by the virus. It experienced 905 new infections in November, bringing its total to 2,981 employees tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020.
At Cleveland Clinic's hospitals throughout Ohio, nearly 900 workers missed work because of COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure to the virus.
During the second surge, Arizona, Texas, and Florida are seeing increases.
In July, Arizona had about 1,000 job openings for travel nurses.
Hospitals also are offering shorter contracts with travel nurses so they can recuperate before moving on to their next job.
Aya said it is experiencing requests for many more travel nurses around the country.
April Hansen, Aya's executive vice president of workforce solutions and clinical services, said it is seeing its highest national demand than at any other point in the pandemic. Hospitals are mostly after skilled intensive care unit nurses.
"They're balancing all of the normal ailments that bring people into hospitals, and they have the complexity of COVID on top of that — caring for patients that are suffering from COVID-19 right now is very time and labor-intensive," Hansen said.
There are between 40,000 to 50,000 traveling nurses working in the U.S. each day. Generally, they work 13-week contracts in facilities close to their homes, but many go to distant places. When they're working far away, they can get stipends for housing and meals.
Staffing companies typically take 25% of the total rate paid by medical organizations, industry officials say. Still, a travel nurse working year-round can earn $100,000. With COVID assignments, that amount could swell significantly.
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