Why Do Hospitals Hire Travel Nurses? · The Gypsy Nurse

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By Covelo Group

July 31, 2023

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Job Outlook: Why Do Hospitals Hire Travel Nurses?

Covelo Group provided this article.

Despite the U.S. healthcare industry making enormous strides since the pandemic, hospitals still struggle to stay fully staffed with nursing professionals. This problem isn’t new. The U.S. has had a persistent lack of healthcare workers for decades, and the shortage[i] of RNs is projected to continue to spread across the country through the year 2030.

As a result, healthcare systems still rely consistently on the travel nursing industry to fill both short-term and long-term staffing gaps. While root causes depend on the unique set of circumstances and challenges facing each medical center, here are some common reasons why hospitals hire travel nurses:

hire travel nurses

Nursing educator shortage

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the U.S. and has been for years. Data tells us that the demand for nurses in the U.S. continues to grow faster than the supply of qualified nursing candidates. Check here[ii] to see the nurse-to-population numbers in your home state.

As the Baby Boomer population experiences greater longevity, the demand for healthcare professionals is increasing. Unfortunately, not enough nursing school graduates are entering the workforce to meet those growing needs, creating a nursing deficit.

A major contributing factor to this deficit is the need that nursing programs have for nursing educators. A lack of qualified educators means that nursing schools remain extremely competitive and can admit only a fraction of their applicants. Ultimately, fewer nursing students lead to fewer nursing professionals.

Seasonal hires

Flu season typically starts in October, with flu activity sometimes stretching into May. Although the peak of flu season[iii] varies from year to year, it frequently happens in or around February. Not only do hospitals experience an influx of patients during flu season, but their full-time staff may also need to take more sick days due to increased exposure to infection. Hospitals also see a higher volume of requests for personal time off during the holidays.

Hiring travel nurses for seasonal spikes in patient load allows hospitals to keep operations running smoothly without increasing their full-time staffing volume.

Underserved communities

Remote hospitals in rural communities face a chronic struggle to keep enough doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals employed on a full-time basis. Given the challenge of attracting permanent clinical staff from bigger cities, these small-town clinics rely on a constant rotation of travel nurses to care for their patients. The travel nursing industry will always be essential to the health and well-being of patients in these isolated communities.

Absences and retirement

Every hospital has to manage covering shifts for their full-time nursing staff during the occasional extended leave of absence, consistent with the Family Medical Leave Act[iv]. Travel nursing is a convenient way for hospitals to cover an employee’s temporary leave of absence, which can last up to 12 weeks.

It’s also true that thousands of American nurses are approaching retirement age. In fact, according to the 2023 National Nursing Workforce Survey,[v] 19 percent of the current RN workforce is 65 years of age or older. This is no small challenge for the hospitals charged with replacing these seasoned nursing professionals within a few short years.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.


[i] https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage

[ii] https://nursejournal.org/articles/the-us-nursing-shortage-state-by-state-breakdown/

[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm

[iv] https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla

[v] https://www.ncsbn.org/research/recent-research/workforce.page

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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