By September 30, 2009 1 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Has travel nursing left the building?


I had an email from a reader asking if, “things were getting any better?” in regard to the way the economy has affected travel nursing.

The past year has certainly seen a shift in the way hospitals operate and this has had a big impact on the travel nursing profession. At the beginning of this year, travel nursing was still going strong and assignments were still reasonably prevalent. Sometime in the spring, as the year’s first financial numbers started rolling, hospitals looking for budget cuts started decreasing their numbers of travel nurses.

Whenever a hospital system looks at where most of its money is allocated, nursing always ranks high; after all, think of how many nurses are working a single shift in a large facility. The obvious step, at least to those who make the financial decisions, is to cut the nursing budget. When cuts are made to the nursing budget, hospitals can no longer afford to use higher priced staffing such as travelers. Those travelers that were already on assignments that began in the early part of the year, suddenly found themselves struggling to find another assignment as their contracts ended. I would say that this summer has had the least amount of travel assignments that I have ever seen in over a decade of travel. So that begs the question, “Is it getting any better?”

From what I have seen, the answer is, “yes”, but it’s still not anywhere near what it used to be. The hospital systems are learning that without nurses, they are limiting the number of available beds in their facilities (thus, decreasing their revenue). Also, as the economy starts to slowly rebound, the travel nursing industry will also slowly respond with an increase in the number of assignments.

Additionally, I have corresponded with several CEO’s of travel nursing companies that are now offering government contracts to meet the needs of their travelers.

The most important thing to be doing as a traveler, or someone considering a travel assignment, is to be ready when that assignment does come along. Sign up with several travel agencies and make sure all your paperwork is up to date and ready to be sent to any prospective facilities. Also maintain contact with your recruiter and check in every week to see what new postings might have come in.

While the hit the travel nursing industry has taken is far from over, we are starting to see some relief as the economy slowly rebounds and the hospital systems start to loosen the purse-strings just a bit.

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About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

1 Comment on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Has travel nursing left the building?"

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  1. Jason Lander says:

    From what I’m seeing and hearing it doesn’t seem anything is getting better yet. At best, it has stopped getting worse – meaning, we seem to have hit the bottom and have stabilized. The SIA reported that travel nursing has taken a 44% hit this year. 44%! Unbelievable. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that. Last week I posted my notes from the Healthcare Staffing Summit. The notes detail information about this decline and more:

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