- In the peak of the pandemic, travel nursing pay reached up to $10,000/week.
- As of February 2022 the average is closer to $3,300/week
- Pay will always fluctuate with supply and demand, but it’s unlikely for travel nursing rates to fall back to pre-pandemic rates.
- Remember to look beyond pay when choosing a staffing agency
A Facebook post in a group for Traveling Nurses reads “Only making $3-4k a week?? Why not make $5-8k a week??”.
The nursing industry has definitely fallen on some challenging times. The work has become increasingly difficult, nurses are facing burn out at incredible rates, the debate on fair pay for nurses rages on, and there are even rumors of congressional pay caps.
There’s a lot to cover, but right now let’s focus on the money.
History Of Pay For Traveling Nurses
Prior to the pandemic, traveling nurses earned about $1,800/week.
The pandemic created a “perfect storm” of an insatiable demand for traveling nurses. We’ll cover that in a moment, but suffice it to say that rates reached an unprecedented high.
During the height of the pandemic (we consider this to be the Delta spike in 2021), salaries for traveling nurses reached $10,000/week for some assignments! Nurses could earn in 2-3 months what previously took a year to earn.
The payoff is those assignments were in places described as a “war zone”.
The average pay has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, but a travel nurse should expect to earn around $3,300/week (as of early 2022), knowing that figure may change a little as time goes on.
Why The Fluctuations In Pay?
Pay for traveling nurses is determined by many things.
For starters, traveling nurses will always earn more than staff nurses because the demands of the job are greater due to the nature of the position.
Traveling nurses have always alleviated staffing shortages in hospitals and facilities that were having a hard time finding nurses to fill their staff positions.
Economics tells us that prices change based on supply and demand. If there are 10 nurses (supply) to fill 50 positions (demand), the pay rate for those nurses is going to get competitive in a hurry. Nurses would almost be able to name their rate (and in 2020 some did)!
In early 2020 there averaged around 8,000 open positions for traveling nurses. By September 2021 that figure grew by 6x to over 48,000 positions. Assignments have decreased to around 32,000 now.
When you track it, the pattern of open assignments follows the pattern for pay.
The Road Back To Normal
As the world gets back to normal (or closer to what we used to call normal), pay is likely to go down. Again, supply and demand.
Many of the staffing shortages were caused by sick nurses who were unable to work because they had Covid, or were caring for loved ones with Covid. Once they get back to work, the number of open assignments will decrease, and thus so will pay.
Although it probably won’t happen quickly or suddenly.
Burnout will most likely slow the nursing industry’s return to normal compared to other industries. When other industries figured out how to get people working remotely, nurses and others in the healthcare industry were in the thick of it.
This has no doubt added to the staffing shortage issue.
The increasing gap between pay for a staff nurse and a travel nurse is also causing some staff nurses to question whether they should quit and take travel assignments instead.
Currently traveling nurses earn 3x more than staffing nurses. This is another issue that goes too deep to fully address here, but is a challenge nonetheless.
Your Goals & What To Look For In A Staffing Agency
If you are looking for a $5,000/week assignment, you might find some. Just know what you’re getting yourself into.
Staffing shortages create chaotic work environments.
The greater the shortage, the greater the chaos.
The greater the shortage, the greater the pay.
If however you want to earn as much as possible, but realize that you have a specific set of requirements that make an assignment ideal for you—then give us a call.
MSG Staffing stands on three guiding principles. The life-saving acronym of CPR seemed fitting given our mission of resuscitating the life-work balance for the nursing industry.
We believe your relationship with a staffing agency should be convenient for you, not the staffing agency.
Assignments should be convenient based on your current and future life goals. Maybe higher pay is something you’re after right now, but later this year you’ll want to be closer to family. It’s okay if your requirements change, because we do everything in our power to find you assignments for the right pay, in the right location, with the right people.
Convenience also means working with us is simple. Onboarding is easy, so is submitting time sheets. Since we disclose everything we know about an assignment before you go there, you’ll also be able to choose if you only take assignments that use systems you’re already familiar with.
Too many of our travel nurses tell us they left their previous staffing agency because their recruiter wasn’t personable.
When you speak, we listen. We ask questions to get to know you so we can help you find assignments that are the best fit for you. You are not a cog in the machine, but a human being with dreams and goals that we can help you accomplish.
If you look at our satisfaction rating you’ll notice that nurses and clients both enjoy working with us. If you’re dissatisfied with your staffing agency, that’s a blemish on them—not you.
You deserve a quick reply if you need something. If you have a question, you deserve an answer. If you have a problem, you deserve a solution.
There really isn’t any reason a traveling nurse should show up for an assignment and be surprised by what they got themselves into.
Not getting responses to emails and phone calls is unacceptable. We already have one of the most responsive teams of recruiters in the industry (you can expect responses between 7am-10pm EST), and are planning to offer an even greater level of support soon.
It’s a winning combination when that support is provided by someone who cares about making life easier for you.
So what will pay look like for traveling nurses in the future? No one can say for certain, but we believe it will be directly linked to the number of available assignments.
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