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By February 6, 2009 10 Comments

The state of travel nursing in 2009


If you haven’t already noticed, the travel nursing industry in early 2009 looks a lot different than it did in early 2008. Due to the economy, a variety of factors have emerged that have temporarily given a new face to the nursing shortage.

There is no doubt still a nursing shortage, there wasn’t a sudden influx of a million nurses to the workforce. No, what has happened is pretty simple. When the economy started to decline and layoffs began, the nurse spouses of the laid-off worker did the only natural thing they could and picked up extra shifts, reducing the number of unfilled shifts normally filled by travel nurses. Couple this with the fact that due to the economy people are delaying treatments and more of those who are getting treatment are not as able to pay as they have been in the past. This lack of revenue for the hospitals means that on top of all this they are delaying much needed expansion to deal with the undelayable increase in patients which will be seen as more and more of the baby boomers retire (one of the major contributors to the nursing shortage, which remember still exists). This delay in turn means a slow down in the number of new positions at a hospital, positions that have typically been filled with travelers at the beginning until perm staff can be recruited and trained.

OK, that was the bad news. Now the good news.

First, this is only temporary, the economy will turn around.

Second, there are still a ton of travel nursing positions available, but as a travel nurse you will need to be more open to what locations you are willing to take an assignment in. The coasts were some of the hardest hit by the economic downturn so there are going to be less jobs there right now, the more you move to the middle of the country the less impact the economy has had and that is where you will find the majority of the travel nursing jobs for the time being.

Third, a majority of the nurses working extra shifts (you may be one of them at the moment) will tire and suffer burn out from being overworked and not having enough help. When they are no longer so willing to work the extra shifts then those jobs will open back up. Possibly with even more open jobs as those nurses themselves decide to take travel assignments.

Fourth, this delaying of treatment is just that, delaying, eventually they will need to deal with it and visit the hospitals again.

What does this mean for you? What can you do right now?

A great article at PanTravelers offers some more insight into the economy and lays out some things you can do as a travel nurse to survive during this economic crunch. Some quick highlights of it include:

  • Seriously consider extending your contract.
  • Be professional because there is a lot more competition for the travel nursing jobs right now.
  • Be more flexible. This is no time to be picky, whether it is pay, location or benefits. 
  • Take this as a chance to grow professionally as a nurse, add a license, maintain and add certifications.
  • Be choosy about the travel nursing agency and check on their financial st and ing
  • Stay aggressive and in control of  your travel nursing job search., look at multiple travel nursing companys.
  • Talk to other travelers , you will get wind of open jobs and the status of travel nursing companies that way.
  • Be financially sound yourself with at least a 13 week an emergency fund.

These were just a few quick overviews of the article; it is definitely worth reading. Do you have any other advice you would offer?

About the Author:

My name is Jeff Long. I’m the Marketing Director at Medical Solutions, one of the leading travel nursing companies. I have never been a nurse and am not a recruiter. I have worked at Medical Solutions for over five years and think it is a great company that has a lot to offer nurses and allied health professionals interested in a travel career. I do post just a small sampling of travel nursing jobs from Medical Solutions, but mostly I write about travel nursing. On this site you will not be recruited on this blog (unless you specifically inquire about traveling with Medical Solutions then I will forward your info to a Recruiter). I understand that you are reading and/or commenting on this blog purely for informational purposes and I want you to enjoy that experience My job is to help you meet your career goals by sharing information, advice and the benefits of travel nursing with you.

10 Comments on "The state of travel nursing in 2009"

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  1. Matthew


    Great article! You are right, the economy will turn around, but not as quickly as we all might think. According to many of the leading Austrian Economists (Lew Rockwell, Peter Schiff, Ron Paul, etc…) who predicted this economic collapse, we are headed for a depression that will last many years. So I suggest that you prepare for yourself and your family.

  2. Kim Lawrence says:

    After 17 years in the industry the last time I saw such a depressed market was in 1991-1992-. The state of economy, the loss of jobs and insurance loss has taken a strain on the market place. Hiring freezes and no replacement hires calls for dangerous numbers of patients for nurses. There will be a stand soon and I see the market picking up this month- slow towards the last 2 weeks and again we will see a rise in mid March and a boom in April- where fun and sun takes over. This will mean overworked nurses will require time off and replacment needs. Until then because there are more nurses than jobs opening some of my travelers have opted to perm. I beleive that if security is what is needed than prehaps a year back in perm is what the doctor ordered. If you are willing to wait it out as I have done. You will get what you need. I have seen many recruiters leave the market now due to cut backs and just leaving- this I find sad. It’s a sign of the time. I have faith that the nursing shortage is real and will never change. Right now it is it it was in the 1940’s you get no choice of where you go you go where the need is.
    My personal belief is that there are some exceptional nurses that are not getting chosen and they are great but because clients receive 100-200 profiles in 10 minutes- few have a chance. It’s all about timing. Each nurse is special and no one can take that away from all the beautiful nurses out there. I know 17 surgeries makes me a professional patient. I beleive the market will change we just have to wait it out. Just my thoughts!

  3. Cheryl


    I am currently on my second travel assignment. Given the state of the economy and decrease in available assignments I decided to extend my current contract; hoping, like many, that positions will open that will meet my needs by the time I’m ready to move on again. I only travel with one company, but I notice that you encourage traveling with more than one. As a new and inexperienced traveler, I am wondering how the companies feel about this. Do they feel a sense of disloyalty or is this expected? How do other travelers handle issues like health insurance and pension plans?

  4. Jeff says:


    Most companies know that a lot of travel nurses will probably travel with other travel nursing companies at some point, but obviously they would rather you didn’t. But is your nursing career so you need to do what is best for you. It is the company’s job to treat you well and try their best to make sure you don’t want to switch. So if you are happy with your company and they keep putting you in travel nursing locations that you like then stick with them, but often it is the location, or lack thereof, that leads travelers down the path of working with multiple travel nursing agencies.

  5. Eric


    Wow! I stopped traveling about a year ago to switch areas of nursing in hopes of returning to Travel. I am now seeing that most want at least 2 years in your specialty, which a year ago I had to have a year in a specialty. Is this change across the board? Also, it is sounding like now is not the time to give up my perm. position for travel. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Should I just stay put?

  6. Jeff says:


    Right now travel nursing companies and hospitals are more able to ask for the two years experience because the supply vs demand equation has flipped and there are more nurses looking for travel nursing jobs than there are travel nursing jobs. As far as staying put, it really depends on your risk threshold. If you are young and don’t have many financial responsibilities you are probably going to be able to deal with the potential gap between assignments you wouldn’t have had to deal with 5 months ago. Hope that helps.

  7. i travel says:

    It have been finding since the beginning of April til now that after I’ve finally got an interview that some hospitals have not told the recruiter about some important ad ons. For example on a telemetry unit pt ratio is 1/8 or mandatory charge nursing or putting you in a position that was never discussed when you were initially seeking work at a particular hospital. I realize that it’s a bad time to be “picky” but I don’t want to be put in a position that I don’t feel comfortable in or feel forced to take a position for 13wks because of the current market. Has anyone else had similar experiences? Does any one have any suggestions for me? I’m ready to go work ASAP!

  8. Jeff says:

    You are right to not take a travel nursing assignment you don’t feel comfortable in. I would suggest working very hard on making sure your recruiter knows exactly what you want out of a travel nursing job and are willing to accept. A lot of issues like yours come from a lack of up front agreement between the traveler and the recruiter at the beginning. granted right now the recruiter may be doing their best just to find you something, but they need to remember that this is temporary and they don’t want to lose you as a traveler in the future for a temporary gain. I have a series of posts (below) I am working on that give you some questions you can go over early in the process to avoid any travel assignment surprises. Hang in there.

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