Travel Nurse Salary Hits Its Peak & More Nurses Leave Staff Positions

Travel Nurse Salary Hits Its Peak & More Nurses Leave Staff Positions

More Nurses Are Taking on Travel Jobs for the Lucrative Pay

A nurse’s career has a few constants that can be relied upon to be true regardless of their work environment or geographical setting, they are:

  • There is a dire nurse staffing shortage.
  • Their median income is higher than the general U.S. median income.

The nursing job industry is projected to grow at a rate of 9% through the year 2030. 

Average Nurse Salary Statistics

According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median income for registered nurses (RNs) in 2020 was $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour. For licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPN/LVN) the median income was $48,820 per year or $23.47 per hour. When those figures are compared to the median income across industries for the entire nation’s working population, the median earnings of all workers aged 15 and over with earnings decreased 1.2 percent between 2019 and 2020 from $42,065 to $41,535, we see that an LPN salary is generally ahead of their fellow citizens, and RN salaries even more significantly so.

When we break that down to a weekly income, we find that on average RNs earn around $1,400 a week, and LPNs earn around $900. Keep in mind that these figures cover nurses working across the country, so the higher pay rates of some states balance out from the lower pay rates in others.

Nevertheless, RNs and LPNs can find higher pay rates when they turn to travel nursing contracts. Prior to the pandemic, travel nurses were seeing pay rates as high as $2,000 per week are now being offered pay packages at astounding rates as high as $5,000 per week. The rates are high due to the fact the need is dire, and it’s a bit of a cyclical problem feeding upon itself.

Travel nursing has long been an enticing career path for nurses who desire to see their country, experience other micro-cultures, and thrive on new experiences. However, the pandemic turned an already challenging job into one that presented major stressors from multiple angles (PPE shortages, staff shortages, patient overflow, high mortality rate). Many nurses who experienced extreme burnout left the industry or retired and now the nurses left behind to shoulder the burden are looking for appreciation, and they’re finding it, in the compensation offered to travel nurses.

Following the Money

Prior to COVID, travel nurses comprised only about 3% of the entirety of nursing staff in a facility. In today’s world, travel nurses account for closer to 9%, which is a significant jump in a short period of time. Nurses near and far are wondering why they need to do the same work as their travel nurse counterparts but for far less compensation. Travel nurse salary is beckoning, and staff nurses are leaving their staff jobs to follow the money.

Tina, an RN in Houston, TX says she left her staff job at a skilled nursing facility because the money was irresistible.

“I have kids, and my husband and I talked about it and I was like, we need to make this work. How can we not take this opportunity for me to earn almost double what I was? He wasn’t sure right away that the money could be real. But I said we can do this! We’re lucky that his mom lives nearby and can help him with the kids, but even if she didn’t, with this kind of money we could hire some help and still come out on top. The money is that good, and I actually like that I’m getting to work in new places all the time.”

Grace, an LPN in Grand Rapids, MI had recently retired but felt guilty about the shortages, and knowing the need for her skills was so dire.

“I retired because I was ready to be done with the constant work, but COVID made me feel guilty. I’m still healthy enough to actually work however, I didn’t want to go all the way back in. Travel nursing was the perfect answer for me because I always said I wanted to travel when I retired, and this way I’m not committing to long term work. I pick up a contract for six weeks or so, work enough that I feel content about my contributing, have the opportunity to see new places, and then go back home and relax for a few weeks until I’m ready to go back out. Also, the money doesn’t hurt either, you know?”

Tom, a nurse based in Charlotte, NC, and just one year out of nursing school says travel nursing has been better than he could have imagined.

“What other new nurse fresh out of school is making five grand week? None of them are! Unless they’re doing travel nursing, obviously. I’ve got the best of both worlds right now, and I’m only starting out. I take time off between every contract but sometimes pick up some PRN shifts for extra cash while I’m lying low. It’s awesome and who knows, maybe I’ll never settle down to one place.”

Elite Specialty Staffing Travel Nurses

If you’re a nurse and want to earn more, see more, and do more, become a travel nurse with Elite Specialty Staffing. Our recruiters are waiting for your call. There are over 20,000 travel nurse job opportunities nationwide, and one of them will be perfect for you. Where do you want to go? How much do you want to earn? Travel nurses with Elite not only earn impressive pay with their contracts, but also impressive benefits. Food, housing, and incidental stipends are generous, and we also provide our nurses with important insurance benefits including health, dental, vision, professional liability, and worker’s compensation. When you join the Elite talent travel nurse team, you’re in capable hands and set to create the career of your dreams.