How Travel Nurse Salaries Are Trending Post-Pandemic

Written by Health Providers Choice on Thursday, July 20, 2023 Posted in On the Job

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The COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is officially over. As the world slowly recovers from the effects of the pandemic, travel nurses find themselves in a unique position. For many, the last three years have been some of the most lucrative of their lives. Now, with the pandemic behind us, there are questions as to what travel health professionals can expect in terms of compensation. Will rates remain high, or will they pull back post-PHE?

The impact of COVID-19 on travel nurse salaries

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for healthcare staffing. As census rates spiked, they quickly overwhelmed normal staffing ratios. Couple this with healthcare workers who were required to quarantine, and the demand for qualified staff reached critical levels across the country. In turn, the need for nurses skyrocketed almost overnight.

With rising demand also came higher pay. It wasn’t uncommon for travelers to see multiple times the standard rate, as hospital systems offered competitive contracts to fill emergent staffing gaps. Nurses willing to pick up assignments in dire areas were able to earn monthly salaries higher than usual. But slowly, as chaos abated, rates returned to normal.

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Current salary trends in the post-pandemic era

In the post-pandemic era, salary trends for nursing professionals have seen some adjustments. Today, they’re almost back to pre-pandemic levels. The financial strain caused by the pandemic has led many healthcare organizations to review their budgets and implement cost-cutting measures, which has been a prime driver affecting nurse compensation.

There’s still significant variability in salary trends across different states, populations, regions, and healthcare settings. Some assignments may offer more favorable rates due to higher census or geographic location. Specialized care is also in high demand, which means lucrative contracts for qualified nurses are still abundant.

Even as salaries level out, the need for travel nurses remains above average. The pandemic may be over, but the disparity in nursing professionals persists.

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Factors affecting travel nursing rates post-pandemic

Travel nurses face new challenges and opportunities in the post-pandemic world. The factors continuing to shape contract rates include:

  • Burnout and continued demand in high-census areas: Healthcare workers still face burnout and exhaustion in the wake of the pandemic. The ongoing need for healthcare staff in high-census areas further amplifies this issue. Travel nurses who choose to work in these high-demand regions typically enjoy higher pay.
  • Specialized skills and certifications: With the ongoing need for specialized care, nurses who have advanced certifications and expertise in specific areas — critical care or emergency medicine, for example — are in high demand. Specialized skills command higher rates, as healthcare facilities recognize the value they bring to patient care.
  • Shifts in healthcare policies and regulations: States are realizing the importance of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) following the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increased mobility and flexibility offered by the compact, travel nurses can choose from a broader range of job opportunities, potentially leading to more competitive salaries.

The regression of travel nursing salaries to the norm is a product of healthcare stabilizing post-COVID-19. Thankfully, lucrative contract opportunities are still plentiful if you know where to look. After all, there is always a need for quality caregivers, pandemic or otherwise.

Looking for clarity regarding travel nursing rates or expectations for a specific assignment? Your Health Providers Choice recruiter will help you navigate the current landscape so you can have confidence accepting your next assignment. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800 to learn more.

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About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.