Laura James

Through 2020-2021, surges in Covid-19 hospitalizations combined with staffing shortages made many hospitals rely on travel nurses. As demands surged, so did the cost of travel nurse contracts. However, as Covid-19 hospitalizations have decreased, many travel nurses are experiencing abrupt pay cuts or straight-up illegal contract cancellations.

Covid-19 Prompts Demand For Travel Nurses

According to Staffing Industry Analysts in 2021 travel nursing’s revenue tripled to an estimated $11.8 billion, up from $3.9 billion in 2015. Nurses who were willing to pack up and travel to a new hot spot every few months earned as much as $10,000 a week at the height of the pandemic. According to Kaiser Health News at the height of the pandemic nurse staffing agencies were often paid as much as $175 an hour for nurses willing to work flexible jobs. The shortage of nurses, which had been a persistent issue in the United States prior to the pandemic, has harmed hospital profitability, as hospitals have had to raise pay not only for traveling nurses but also for their regular staff, sending average nurse salaries soaring nationwide.

Travel Nurses Experience Pay Cuts

However, as Covid-19 has found some hospitalizations are stabilizing and states are running out of pandemic relief funds, hospitals are now negotiating up to 50% lower contract rates with staffing agencies and even canceling contracts for travel nurses. HCA Chief Executive Officer Sam Hazen shared with The Wall Street Journal that temporary staff expenses have been down about 22% in June 2022 compared to April. Bill Rutherford, HCA Hospital Chief Financial Officer, predicted that “over the course of the year, we’ll hopefully see a reduction in the utilization of that contract labor.”

Weekly pay for temporary nurses is expected to continue to drop another 15% to the low $3,000s, which will be helping hospitals improve their bottom lines. Now, some travel nurses are returning to full-time jobs, despite preferring the flexibility of being travel nurses. However, other nurses are still taking travel positions, even at lower rates since they typically still 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 nurse shortage.