Travel Nursing after the COVID Pandemic- An Opinion Piece

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By Katie Fitts

April 8, 2022

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The Case for Travel Nursing: An Opinion

Travel nursing is one of THE MOST talked about professions in the last two years in light of the COVID pandemic. I had heard of travel nursing long ago and knew it was something I wanted to do even before I got into nursing school. I loved the idea of traveling the country and having more schedule flexibility and financial stability. When I started travel nursing back in 2014, travel nursing was fairly popular but still a bit under the radar. Boy, did that change in 2020!

Fast forward to 2022, travel nursing is a buzzword and essentially a household name. There are talks of capping travel nurse pay, continued volatility of pay rate changes and contract cancellations, some voracious travel nurse recruiting companies, and perhaps a bit of a stigma now attached to the travel nurse. 

So I’m here to talk about the case for travel nursing! For those unaware of what it is to be a travel nurse and perhaps those that may have a less than desirable opinion of travel nurses. 

Because at the end of the day, just as nursing is in general, this is a great and honorable profession. Travel nurses (along with permanent staff, of course) have been very instrumental in helping to get over this COVID pandemic. Without travel nurses, hospitals would have been even more overwhelmed and unable to provide the care needed in very dire circumstances. Travel nurses do the same work as staff nurses, but sometimes we get a bad rap because people think we are just in it for the money. But it’s more than that!

The COVID pandemic has changed everything and, most dramatically, the healthcare system. The COVID pandemic brought an acute and immediate need for nurses EVERYWHERE. As a result of the high demand and obvious occupational dangers, the pay rates skyrocketed. And nurses noticed.

Why stay at a staff job for meager pay not comparable to the cost of living? Why be worked to bone with unsafe patient ratios and overbearing administration? It’s a no-brainer why nurses have left staff jobs to take high-paying travel nurse contracts. They get paid good wages, have the flexibility they want, and stay out of the hospital’s oppressive and demoralizing politics. So we leave to travel to afford us a better opportunity. An opportunity to make good money and take the time for rest all of us healthcare workers so very dearly need. It’s an opportunity to take a vacation of a lifetime, finally, pay off that debt, be able to afford your only daughter’s wedding, and finally be able to buy a house. The list goes on! 

Isn’t that the American dream? I think any rational person given the choice between a staff job and a travel nurse would easily pick the latter, given the current circumstances. But not everyone can just pick up and do travel nursing! 

It takes a special person. A brave person. To go out into the unknown, where you may not know anybody or anything. To trust that you will make it across the country in your beat-up car because you couldn’t afford a new one on a staff nurse’s pay. To leave your comfort zone of the hospital, you know, akin to Cheers… where everybody knows your name. To leave your support system behind. Or to bring your support system with you and adjust to frequent moves and all that traveling life brings. To strive to meet new people and make new friends. To do things solo and be ok with it. To spend more time by yourself and fall in love with yourself. To do things you only dreamed of and things you thought for yourself were impossible!

If there is anything the COVID pandemic has taught us is that life is so very short. It is too short to be stuck in a job you hate, or that is draining your life away. Nurses aren’t the only ones changing things up, though. We are in what we call “The Great Resignation.” Thousands of people are leaving their current jobs to pursue better opportunities. Opportunities that we nurses are also pursuing: better pay, fair treatment, safe working conditions, and more schedule flexibility. It’s pretty simple, really. But the COVID pandemic has really brought this to light. 

People are tired, particularly healthcare workers. The healthcare system was broken long ago before the COVID pandemic. My father, a physician, tried to convince his children NOT to go into healthcare, and for good reason. But alas, 3 of us are now and now have an understanding of what he meant.

Nurses are tired of unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios, tired of meager pay, tired of always being expected to do more with less while the CEOs in business suits make decisions based on hospital profits. It’s a tough job. And what is even more concerning is that so many nurses are considering leaving nursing ALTOGETHER. And then where does that lead us?

So yes, we are making good money right now. And hopefully, this will continue but at sustainable rates. I don’t think anyone expects travel nurses to be always making $5000 a week. But keep in mind, we are having double expenses, keeping up residences at home, and now paying exorbitant housing rates. 

But wouldn’t you do the same if you had the same opportunity? It’s human nature to strive for success and want the best for you and your family. 

Maybe, for some of us, travel nursing is the only way to want to be able to stay in the nursing profession. Maybe, we can finally get a good work-life balance. Maybe, even though the job is still very hard and stressful and we fear for patient safety, we can at least be making good money. 

To those resentful of travel nurses, the enemy is not travel nurses. Travel nurses are there to help alleviate the short staffing and work alongside you for better patient care and working conditions. They also deserve your respect and consideration. Just because we are travel nurses does not mean we are somehow superhuman and can take on more patient loads and be treated poorly. Please treat travel nurses as your own. We all know too well the toxic behavior catchphrase of nurses “eating their young.” Seasoned nurses being demeaning and condescending to new nurses out of spite. The same behavior can be seen towards travel nurses at times. 

The problem is that healthcare is broken and has been for quite some time. Profits over patient safety, lining the hospital system CEOs’ pockets over staff pay raises, productivity over safe nurse-to-patient ratios. 

Legislature, the enemy, is not travel nurse pay. Fix the problem, and you will find your solution. Mandate safe nurse-to-patient ratios, give the nurses the needed breaks, give nurses the pay they deserve. Give back to the community that cares for the sick, downtrodden, and dying. The community bore the CRUSHING weight of the COVID pandemic. Otherwise, you won’t have any nurses left.

So let’s give more love and kindness to each other. Be kind to each other. Treat travel nurses as your own. We are in this together!

I rest my case.

Gypsy love,

Katie

P.S. If you are ready to start travel nursing, hit me up! 🤙 😃

We hope you enjoyed and found this article on making a case for travel nursing educational and helpful. Do you have anything to add? Comment below.

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Please note: the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of The Gypsy Nurse and its staff.

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