Great news for travel nurses: As demographics change and hospitals are challenged to meet staffing demands, the job outlook in hospitals continues to be very favorable.
As of 2017, travel nurses already represented about 11% of hospital nursing teams, according to a study by KPMG International Cooperative that projects even higher demand in the future.
So what is it that hospitals appreciate so much about travel nurses? Consider the following:
- Fewer unfilled positions. It’s no secret: Retiring baby boomers and the need for healthcare among aging Americans are creating unprecedented demand for nurses that won’t be going away anytime soon. The BLS points to 15 percent growth in nursing jobs between 2016 and 2026. The bottom line is that hospitals unable to hire enough nurses could lose patient capacity, earn in lower revenues and develop problems related to overworked staff members.
- Lower costs. Though the average salary for a travel nurse last year was more than $71,730, research shows hospitals save on overtime pay, paid time off, retirement, insurance, recruiting and payroll taxes by hiring travel nurses. One 2017 study, for example, placed the average hourly cost of a full-time permanent nurse at $89 compared to $83 for a travel nurse. And that doesn’t account for the non-productive labor hours and recruitment and hiring expenses associated with permanent nurses, the study reports.
- Flexibility. If a hospital has a short-term need due to leaves of absence, seasonal demand or other factors, it need not commit to hiring full-time, permanent nurses. In some cases, hospitals hire travel nurses for hard-to-fill specialty positions just to stem demand until they can hunt down more permanent employees.
- Quick and easy hiring processes. Since travel nurses have already been vetted by their hiring agencies, hospital HR departments don't need to put them through the same administrative hoops as they must for year-round hires.
- Experience. Travel nurses generally have at least a year of practical on-the-job experience and meaningful references, whereas hospitals may otherwise have to hire new nursing school grads. In other cases, travel nurses are highly experienced industry veterans who simply want a different career lifestyle.
- Amenability. By nature, travel nurses are frequently geared toward getting along with a wide range of co-workers, avoiding workplace drama and coping with a variety of workplace situations. One study even found nurses working for agencies are more satisfied in their jobs than permanent nurses, suggesting they may be happier in their workplaces.
- Fresh perspectives. Sometimes, travel nurses represent a breath of fresh air to hospital co-workers. “Not only are our travelers invited to social events, they are also invited to participate in our planning, quality and decision-making and self-governance meetings,” medical center CEO Patrick Branco recently told Travelnursing.com. “(Their input) is so valuable because they often have a rich background on what other facilities have attempted and where they have found success.”
- Few issues with licensure. Many travel nurses are licensed to work in multiple states, thanks to the Nurse Licensure Compact.
- Lack of obligation. From a legal standpoint, permanent employees can be difficult for a hospital to simply dismiss if they’re not working out. The travel nursing system ensures the hospital need not re-hire or extend the employment of a travel nurse who isn’t meeting expectations.
The short story: Hospitals and travel nurses together represent a win-win scenario.
“Many hospitals have discovered that well-planned use of staffing companies is the secret to retaining nurses — and, in turn, promoting patient safety,” concludes Franklin Shaffer on Americannursingtoday.com.