Top Reasons Why Travel Nurses Get Paid More
By Leigh Morgan, Contributor
When hospitals and other medical facilities need experienced nurses to make up for staffing shortages, they rely on travel nurses to get the job done. Travel nurses take on short-term assignments, which typically start at 13-weeks, ensuring that patients receive quality care even if a facility is having trouble filling open nursing positions. In exchange for their experience and flexibility, travel nurses typically get paid more than staff nurses.
Travel Nurses Fill Short-term Needs
Staff nurses are hired to fill long-term positions in hospitals, clinics, medical offices and other medical facilities. These nurses typically work in the same place until they decide to seek employment elsewhere. In contrast, a travel nurse accepts short-term assignments and may work for several facilities in a single year. According to the College of St. Scholastica, a typical travel nursing assignment lasts between eight and 26 weeks. By accepting short-term assignments, travel nurses give medical facilities the flexibility they need to fill open positions without making long-term commitments.
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Several states have serious nursing shortages
Travel nurse pay is typically higher than staff nurse pay because travel nurses accept assignments in high-need areas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that seven states will have a shortage of registered nurses by 2030. California is expected to have the greatest shortfall, but New Jersey, South Dakota, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and Alaska are also expected to have fewer nurses than needed to keep up with the increased demand for healthcare. Even more concerning is that 33 states are expected to have a shortage of licensed practical nurses by 2030.
Furthermore, travel nurses are often willing to accept assignments in rural areas, many of which do not have enough nurses. In Panguitch, Utah, for example, it's not unusual for the local hospital to post a job and receive no applications, making it extremely difficult to ensure that enough nurses, doctors and technicians are on hand to provide the care patients need. According to the National Rural Health Association, remote areas have difficulty attracting young nurses, resulting in nursing shortages that are likely to get worse as more baby boomers need specialty medical care.
Travel nurses often receive stipends and bonuses
Staff nurses typically receive an hourly rate that does not change unless they work overtime or receive a raise based on merit or an increase in the cost of living. Travel nurses also receive hourly pay, but they may receive bonuses or stipends, increasing the total amount of money they receive for each assignment. Still wondering why travel nurses get paid more? It all comes down to one thing: flexibility.
Travel nurses are willing to accept short-term assignments that may end in as little as a few weeks. Some travel nurses also take assignments in multiple states throughout the year, making them eligible for housing stipends and sign-on bonuses. You may even receive an additional stipend to pay for your meals.
Employers pay more for specialty skills
Another reason travel nurse compensation is typically higher than the pay offered to a staff nurse is because travel nurses often accept assignments in hard-to-fill specialties. While some hospitals have few medical-surgical openings, they struggle to fill nursing jobs in pediatrics and critical care. Nurse Journal reports that trauma nurses, geriatric nurses and psychiatric nurses are also in demand. When medical facilities cannot fill these openings with staff nurses, they look for travel nurses to step in and provide high-quality patient care.
So, why do travel nurses get paid more? It's because they fill short-term needs, accept assignments in areas with severe nursing shortages, receive extra compensation for their flexibility and work in hard-to fill specialties. Extra pay, the ability to travel and the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life make travel nursing one of the best options for nurses seeking a rewarding, flexible career.