The COVID-19 pandemic has propelled travel nursing into a wildly new era. In the past year, travel nurses have seen rates sky-rocket as the demand for nurses has brought about the crisis contracts and rapid deployment disaster response assignments. On the other hand, there have also been some tumultuous times for travel nurses during the pandemic.
Why are Travel Nurse Contracts Being Cancelled?
Last May, we saw the first wave of contract cancellations. As patient census numbers and acuity levels dramatically fluctuated, hospitals found themselves underfunded and overstaffed with travel nurses. We are now starting to experience this phenomenon again. Some areas are still in crisis mode and desperate for nurses. But, many of the locations that were previously declared as disasters are now recovering and have a reduced need for emergency response nurses.
As these locations move towards a more ‘normal’ patient population, travel nurses are once again being cancelled, or are being asked to take a major reduction in rates as the facilities are no longer approved for ‘crisis rates’ by their respective states. This creates a bit of chaos in the travel nurse industry for both recruiters and traveling healthcare providers.
Travel Nursing and Jobs Now
First, it obviously results in some upset and frustrated nurses and providers. Second, it increases competition in the job marketplace. As more nurses get cancelled, or leave their current positions because they are being asked to take less pay, the more nurses there are looking for those high-paying, rapid response contracts. This means that the jobs are being filled more quickly than usual and recruiters are working hard to keep up with the influx of applicants. The unpredictability and volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused hospitals systems to be unable to plan and project their staffing needs.
This does not mean that there aren’t enough jobs for all of the nurses that are qualified to do travel nursing. There are still plenty of positions available for the travel nurses. But, the popular jobs, like those in high demand locales or those that are paying at the top level, are likely to be filled fast.
Will there Be another Wave of COVID-19?
I don’t think anyone can accurately predict how this disease will behave over the next few months, especially with the arrival of the vaccination initiatives. If there IS another wave, then there will most likely be another slew of crisis response contracts overwhelming the market. If we continue on the downward trend, nurses may see rates drop, but be assured, the rates will stay higher than staff pay, as they have always been.
In the meantime, travel nurses should understand that the job market may be a bit trickier than normal to navigate. Depending on what they are searching for, jobs may seem like they are disappearing quickly and that can be discouraging for nurses, especially those new to the travel world.
If you can’t find your ‘ideal’ job, figure out what your hard limits are. Ask yourself what your minimum pay requirements are. If location is more important, make a list of 3-5 locations you would be willing to go to in case your top choice isn’t available, or doesn’t meet your pay standards. Keep an eye on trends in travel nursing and the pandemic to maintain realistic goals.