According to a recent USAToday article, the demand for travel nurses has reached a 20-year high. While we’d like to say that’s a good thing, the reality is, the demand stems from a national nursing shortage. It’s being called the “silver tsunami” – a tidal wave of retiring nurses happening at a time when the senior population is expected to spike. That’s a dangerous combination of events, especially when you consider that nurses are responsible for providing roughly 90 percent of the world’s healthcare.
Hospitals used travel nursing well before the national nursing shortage, but usage has since soared as more hospitals and other facilities have found it increasingly harder to both recruit and retain skilled nurses. That brings us back to travel nursing and why they’re being utilized more frequently.
Great for Temporary Gaps
Travel nurses are a wonderful stopgap. A typical travel nurse will be assigned to a hospital for a 13-week contract, which of course can be shortened, extended or renewed at the request of the facility. When the contract is over, the travel nurse will traditionally move onto another facility in need of their services. Hospitals are finding the travel nursing option increasingly more attractive.
There are plenty of reasons why hospitals and other facilities use a traveling nurse, including:
More Cost Effective
Temporary needs aren’t the only reason more hospitals are utilizing travel nursing. Traditionally, travel nursing is seen as an expensive option; but that’s not quite true. Using travel nurses to fill positions may actually be less expensive as employment costs continue to climb. Because traveling nurses are employees of their agency, administration is spared the costs of employee benefits like health insurance, paid-time off (PTO), retirement, and also the time and resources spent recruiting, training and overtime.
For a more scholastic opinion on the subject, Richard Wahlquist, president and chief executive officer of the American Staffing Association, commented on a study meant to evaluate the expense of travel nursing:
This study shows that supplemental nurses offer the strategic flexibility that hospitals need to augment their workforce during peak times, and to address any interim labor shortages related to leave coverage, vacancies and expansion of services.
The research discovered that hourly personnel costs for supplemental nurses efficiently offset the overtime costs of permanent nurses.
Great for Hard-to-Fill Positions
Poor nurse-to-patient ratios have led to nurse burnout and consequently turnover, especially in areas like the ER. For facilities in rural or low-populated areas, that’s problematic for maintaining adequate staff. Travel nurses make for efficient plug-ins in hard-to-fill areas. Instead of sitting on open job postings for months at a time, administration can use a travel nursing agency to fill the void. Travel nurses cover a range of specialties, making them very useful for hospitals struggling to recruit nurses.
If you’re considering using a travel nurse, be sure to read the most effective ways for administration to select a travel nursing agency.