Nursing Shortage Worsens as Travel COVID-19 Jobs Increase

Nursing Shortage Worsens as Travel COVID-19 Jobs Increase

A shortage of nurses that’s existed since the 1930s continues to increase and drive the need for travel nurses and other allied healthcare professionals who work on a contract basis. Some of the typical licenses that we see COVID-19 jobs in high demand are for:

  • Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)

Travel Nurses Help Care for Patients in Alabama

Across the United States, reports are coming in that show travel nurses are not only an important piece of a hospital’s frontline arsenal against COVID-19 – but a necessity. One nurse out of Montgomery, Alabama – Kymbreon Anderson, left her home about six months ago to go help during this pandemic on her first travel nursing assignment.

“I think for any health care worker, right now is hard. I mean this is something that we’ve never experienced before. I think everywhere, every hospital is pretty much short-staffed and just overworked. With COVID patients, sometimes you don’t know what to expect. You’ve always got to be on your p’s and your q’s because they can go south at any given time, so it is difficult seeing that.”

The president of the Alabama Hospital Association, Don Williamson, said that even though the daily numbers of COVID-19 within the state have steadily decreased over recent weeks, the need for travel nurses continues. According to Williamson, “without question, travel nurses are in high demand, and finding them is very very difficult.”

Why the Nursing Shortage Exists and When Did It Begin?

An article from the University of Pennsylvania discussed the nursing shortage and how it emerged in the 1930s. During that time, people increased their use of hospital care. As such, the demand for hospitals and other institutions grew and this early part of the century witnessed the construction of many new healthcare facilities.

During this same era, nurses had a reduction of hours in a workday (which was a good thing, as they were sometimes forced to work long hours or even days), and the technology inside of the hospitals also became more complex (which required skilled professionals for operation).

The World War II-era further increased the demand for nurses and also brought about the training and introduction of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) into the field. However, throughout the 30s and 40s, several documented reports revealed that nurses were dramatically underpaid and often endured very poor working conditions (eh-em, still a problem in the nursing industry today, but travel nursing can help compensate for the financial part of this equation). Therefore, the shortage would continue for decades and still is alive and real in today’s strained world of healthcare staffing.

Travel Nurses Started as an Answer to Seasonal Shortages

Florida and Arizona were among the first states to hire nurses on a seasonal or contracted basis to deal with the higher influx of patients the hospitals experienced during the winter months. People who travel to warmer climates during the winter, also known as “snow-birds”, are usually of retirement age. Because it is usually an older population that has an influx into an area, there is a higher percentage of people who are more likely to, for example, fall and break a hip or end up in the hospital for other medical reasons.

The trend caught on, and hospitals across the nation in every state began looking at their nursing shortages and doing something about it by hiring travel nurses. By the 1990s, travel nursing had become a full-fledged industry where nurses could earn higher compensation. Since the rise of travel nursing agencies in the 1990s, there have been plenty of jobs for nurses to choose from for decades.

Travel Nursing Has Changed Since COVID-19

In many ways. Of course, the sanitation precautions and PCR testing have become normal parts of the work cycle for travel nurses, CNAs, and other healthcare professionals.

Travel nursing has taken over as no longer an option – but a necessity – for many healthcare facilities. Nurses have been reaping the pay benefits as this dramatic spike in demand for nurses on top of a nursing shortage that has been running for decades has brought about some of the highest-paying travel nursing jobs the industry has ever seen.

Learn more about this in our previous blog post, “How Travel Nursing Jobs & Salaries Have Evolved Since Pre-COVID.” Or, just look at this job for an operating room (OR) nurse currently available in Springfield, Massachusetts with gross weekly pay of $1978.47 as an example.

The Outlook for the Demand for Travel Nurses

The American Nurses Association (ANA) has come out with news that there will be more jobs for registered nurses (RNs) available in 2022 than any other profession. An article featured in the Nursing Times estimated that there will be an additional 11 million nurses needed from now until 2022 and that the demand for nursing employment is expected to grow faster than all occupations from 2016 to 2026 at a projected 15% rate.

Factors contributing to the current nursing shortage, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN), include the fact that many nurses are reaching the age of retirement; the prevalence of nursing burnout; changes brought on by COVID-19 that have caused new pressures on nurses and CNAs, and a nationwide facility shortage of nursing schools. Supply and demand come into play and the pay rate for travel nurses and other healthcare professionals continues to climb.

Wisconsin Relied on Travel Nurses to Fill COVID-19 Jobs

Madison’s Meriter Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin found itself short-staffed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to turn to travel nurses to get the staff they needed to provide care to very critical patients. Through their experience, they learned that nurses who work in specialties, such as the intensive care unit (ICU), were the hardest to come by.

Competition to get these nurses, in particular, the ones who are specialized in a specific field of nursing, has driven up the pay rates. Travel nurses are sometimes making two to three times the hourly rate that is made by the staff nurses who work in the same facilities. Nonetheless, the show must go on and these nurses are needed to keep the wheels turning and to provide care to patients when they are in their most critical states.

Leah Huibregtse is the spokesperson for Madison’s Meriter Hospital, and she says that “We were lucky to have some traveling nurses support us during the COVID-19 surge, especially those with experience in critical care.”

Jason Mattson, who is the Team Leader of the ICU of Green Bay’s Bellin Hospital, said this was the first time in over 20 years that they needed the help of travel nurses. He explained that he and other managers have some concerns over the levels of competency and adjustments travel nurses could make to the equipment and protocols, “we’ve never done that before, we’re going to do a leap of faith,” he describes the decision to fill several travel nursing jobs. “As the COVID numbers started to climb we had to open a second ICU for just the COVID patients and the staff was overwhelmed,” Mattson says.

If you need travel nurses to fill jobs opened due to the COVID-19 crisis or any other reason or if you are a travel nurse looking for an assignment, call us today at (208) 378 1338.