Which Travel Nursing Specialties Are in Demand?


By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor

A growing number of travel nurse jobs are opening up across the country, as employers are seeking skilled nurses in several practice areas to meet their specific needs and increased census loads. From labor and delivery (L&D) to NICU and PICU, top travel nurse agencies are seeing the growth across many nursing specialties.

But which RN travel assignments are most in-demand? We talked to three recruiters with’s travel nurse staffing partners to find out.

“There has been such amazing growth in the travel nursing industry in the last year that we are aggressively recruiting for all specialties,” explained Robin Connell, placement manager for NurseChoice, a travel nurse staffing agency that specializes in critical needs, short-term RN travel assignments. “From med–surg to nurse managers, the travel nurse jobs are all growing.”

Although spring is right around the corner, Jackie Nelson, senior recruitment manager for Medical Express, said that she is still seeing an increase in pediatric and PICU travel nurse assignments because of the colder winter months and the respiratory illnesses that come along with the season. “We are also seeing a strong trend of neonatal ICU positions and dialysis orders, including acute and chronic.”

In addition to these more unique specialties, Nelson added that the best specialties for travel nursing are any within the ICU, ER, telemetry, labor and delivery (L&D) and OR areas. “This would include CVOR and general areas with an emphasis on ortho,” she explained.

There are a variety of factors that impact the demand for certain specialties--including seasonal fluctuations, regional demographics, the changing health care environment, and a general shortage of skilled nurses.

“There is still a nurse shortage,” Nelson said. “Most of the nursing specialties that I just mentioned have consistently been in high demand for many years.”

“The nursing shortage is expected to grow over 20 percent in the next 5 years,” she continued, adding, “The demand for travelers will increase as a result.  The really great news for travel nurses is that, because they are more portable, they are fortunate to be able to choose where they want to live and work--more so than most professions.”

An aging population and federal incentives for electronic health records (EMRs) have also contributed to an uptick in demand for travel nurse jobs across the board.

“I am sure that the increased demand also has to do with computerized charting conversions,” Nelson said. “Hospitals are required to convert to electronic charting systems within a certain time frame or they can lose some of their vital funding.”

For nurses who are eager to use their skills as a travel nurse, Connell said the best way to get considered for a contract is to get out on the floor and expand your areas of expertise as much as possible.

“If possible, try to get at least two continuous years of training in the specialty you would like to travel in,” Nelson agreed. “Facilities love well-educated nurses.  Travel nurses give themselves an edge with a BSN.  Specialty certifications in the specialty are also very valuable, and advanced classes like ACLS, PALS, NIH and TNCC can be a huge help in obtaining a position. I feel it shows ongoing effort for continued growth and improvement and that is the kind of employee top travel nurse agencies and facilities want and hire.”

Stephanie Gilliland, senior recruitment manager with leading travel nurse staffing company, American Mobile Healthcare, advises her travelers to seek out opportunities to cross-train and float as much as possible and to take advantage of any certifications the facility offers.

“There are a lot of great hospitals in amazing locations looking for your help,” she added. “You can use travel as an opportunity to work for your dream facility, get teaching or Magnet hospital experience, and more! The needs are ever-changing, so make sure to touch bases with your recruiter often so you don’t miss out on exciting positions!”

Experienced nurses with a high needs specialty will find they have the luxury of many job choices throughout the United States, Nelson concluded.

“Having a reputable facility on your résumé is very valuable,” she said. “It will get you the next job you desire.  Also, with many of our high-needs assignments, there is a higher hourly rate.”


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