The State of Travel Nursing in 2024 · The Gypsy Nurse

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By Medely

February 20, 2024

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The State of Travel Nursing in 2024

Medely provided this article.

The travel nursing industry has gone through significant transformations in the past few years, and as we get further into 2024, we thought it was important to explore the current state of this dynamic career path. 

Rising demand for travel nurses

Despite the end of “the travel nurses’ gold rush,” the travel nursing industry is still going strong and continues to be a viable option for skilled nurses, says TravelNursing.org. 

In the past several years, the travel nursing industry has grown by more than 600%, according to Supplemental Health Care. This is due to various factors, including the ongoing strain on healthcare facilities and the need for specialized skills in different regions, especially more rural areas. This has led hospitals and healthcare facilities to fill staffing gaps with travel assignments and book travel nurses to maintain quality patient care. 

travel nursing

Changing demographics of travel nurses

The demographics of travel nurses are evolving, reflecting a diverse and dynamic workforce. Many younger professionals are entering the field, drawn to the flexibility, professional growth, and unique experiences that travel nursing offers. Additionally, more experienced nurses looking for a change or seeking adventure contribute to the growing diversity within the travel nursing community.

However, there is a projected nursing shortage in the U.S., according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, due to more and more baby boomer-generation nurses retiring, adding to the many RNs who left the profession due to pandemic burnout. This is a good opportunity for travel nurses to make the most of the situation as hospitals and facilities look to them to fill those staffing gaps. 

Technological advancements in travel nursing

More and more, the travel nursing industry has embraced technological advancements to streamline processes and enhance communication. Mobile apps and online platforms like Medely connect healthcare facilities with travel nurses, making it easier for professionals to find assignments and for facilities to secure qualified staff quickly. These innovations have contributed to the efficiency and accessibility of the travel nursing marketplace and made it easier for travel nurses to not only find the travel assignments they’re looking for but also pick up local shifts in between. Check out this travel nurse’s story here on how she became a travel nurse to see the world and uses Medely to find the shifts she needs.

Salary trends and perks

Compensation for travel nurses has seen ebbs and flows over the past few years, especially when it peaked during the pandemic, but pay still remains high and competitive, according to Health eCareers. Plus, all the perks of travel nursing are still available and enticing to RNs considering this career path, like flexible schedules, benefits, stipends, higher pay, flexibility, exploration, and career growth.

Challenges and opportunities

As the healthcare landscape continues to shift and evolve in 2024,  travel nurses continue to play a critical role in healthcare across the U.S. The demand for highly skilled professionals, technological advancements, and the changing demographic landscape show that this resilient and adaptable workforce can grasp many opportunities this year. Navigating the challenges and embracing opportunities will be key to ensuring the continued success and growth of travel nursing in the years to come.

Want to use Medely to sign up for your next travel assignment? We’ve got you covered. Medely works with thousands of the best facility partners across the U.S. 

Check out our app here.

Facts about travel nursing

During the COVID pandemic, travel nursing experienced a significant increase in demand as healthcare facilities urgently sought more nurses to fill critical needs.  This led to a surplus of high-paying contracts that attracted many nurses who may not have previously considered travel nursing. Now, as the travel pay begins to find a new baseline, some nurses are now questioning whether travel nursing will remain a favorable option in the future.

Post-pandemic travel nursing remains one of the most rewarding and fulfilling career moves you can make, and we’re going to break down exactly why that is! While the pandemic presented unique challenges and opportunities, the pulse of travel nursing remains strong. The essence of this career choice—higher pay, flexibility, new connections, adventure, a politics-free environment, and professional growth—continues to thrive.

In the past several years, the travel nursing industry has grown by more than 600%, and some estimates expect that around 10% of working nurses will remain in contract roles long-term. The foundational shifts driving both the support and demand for healthcare professionals won’t be settled any time soon.

Travel Nurse Pay Remains High 

From March 2020 to July 2022, Trusted Health saw travel nurses across all specialties and states making an average gross weekly income of $3,668! Though the average gross weekly income has decreased slightly since then, Trusted is still seeing an impressive average gross weekly of $3,206.  This amount is leaps and bounds beyond the national average of $1,711 earned by staff nurses and is still higher than the pre-pandemic average of $2,273 gross weekly for travel nurses. 

Healthcare Worker Shortages

First and foremost, there are not enough RNs and other healthcare workers to meet the needs of patients. That goes back, in part, to a shortage of nursing school programs and educators to prepare incoming nursing students.

So, the RN workforce is growing in leaps and bounds, but the tools aren’t always available to train them. When healthcare facilities can’t find local candidates to fill RN positions, they turn to travel nurses to fill those spots.

travel nursing

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the highest-paying jobs for travel nurses have been in intensive care units, emergency departments, medical surgery, and home health. Contract labor rates are expected to stabilize at 15% over pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

NBC News announced last fall that “the travel nurses’ gold rush” is over. Hospitals are now negotiating down contract rates with travel nurse agencies by as much as 50%. Though not what it once was, travel nursing is far from dead, and the pay is still above average. The mean travel nurse income has stabilized at around $3k per week in 2023. Given that compensation has fallen since the unprecedented pandemic pay, so have the number of travel nurses, making jobs less competitive.

Still, a number of factors, such as whether a hospital is dealing with a natural disaster or strike, as well as market demand in that region, can cause assignments to attract higher prices. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual travel nurse salary in the United States is $105,021 or $50/hr as of May 2023. This is much higher than the national average for registered nurses, which is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour, according to the BLS.

Travel Nursing Is Still A Viable Option For Nurses

Travel nursing is still a viable employment choice for the nursing profession. Travelers can earn better salaries with stipends and bonuses than their counterparts, with benefits packages and affordable living arrangements. Another perk of travel nursing is schedule flexibility. Nurses enjoy the option to work 13-week assignments with breaks in between.

Another common attitude expressed by travel nurses is that contract work allows them to focus on patient care. They can avoid the bureaucracy of dealing with management and leadership that some face in staff roles. Travelers also choose which hospitals they will work in. They can refuse facilities that they’ve heard have dangerous conditions or too many patients per nurse. California is the only state to regulate nurse-to-patient ratios. It requires one nurse for every five patients in most departments and intensive care units to have a 1:2 ratio.

Travel nursing is perfect for those who want the freedom to choose the assignment and department that fits their lifestyle and interests. It allows nurses to obtain experience in a variety of settings while having the freedom to travel. Despite the current economic downturn, travel nursing remains a feasible employment option for healthcare workers with the right mindset and skills.

Industry analysis suggests that the US may face a shortage of up to 450,000 registered nurses by 2025. According to one nationwide assessment of the nursing workforce, nurses are retiring in greater numbers, with the typical nurse’s age rising from roughly 43 in 2000 to 52 in 2020. This reality, combined with the impending influx of elderly Baby Boomers who will require more care, is expected to exacerbate the situation. These facts suggest that there will always be choices for experienced nurses in all specialties who want to travel.

Travel nursing has been a part of the modern nursing workforce for decades, and it is now a strategic staffing solution. Healthcare systems can leverage this resource to ease the current burden and propel patient care into the next post-pandemic chapter without significant disruptions or serious consequences.

Find Your Next Travel Nurse Assignment with Our Job Board!

Are you on the hunt for your next travel nurse gig? Look no further than our job board! Click here to explore all our current opportunities.

Discover the Perfect Housing for Your Next Assignment

Need somewhere to stay on your next travel nurse assignment? We’ve got you covered. Check out our housing page to find your ideal home away from home. Click here to start your search.

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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