What Does the Future of Travel Nursing Look Like?
By Gareth Havard, Contributor
Nursing is one of the cornerstones of healthcare, yet factors like an aging population, practitioner retirement and new legislation have led to a marked rise in the demand for registered nurses. The knock-on effect of this has been an unprecedented growth in travel nursing across the country, as providers seek to bridge the gap between supply and demand. This article looks at the exciting future of travel nursing and the factors that play a role in this.
The Future of Travel Nursing and Specialty Needs
Travel nurses are registered nurses from different clinical backgrounds assigned to fill short-term employment needs where needed. These jobs usually occur in high-demand locations or when a specific type of specialization or skill is required. Although by definition a transient role, this type of nursing offers numerous benefits compared to fixed contract work, including:
- Higher pay and benefits
- Wide schedule and role choices
- Being paid to experience different locations
What began as a temporary solution to a national shortage has now become a full-fledged branch of nursing. One that is a key part of delivering the care needed in a constantly adapting health system.
The Acute and Chronic Shortage
The facts are stark. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that job opportunities for registered nurses are projected to grow at a faster rate than all other occupations through 2026. It also predicts that an additional 1.1 million nurses are needed to avoid a further shortage.
This deficit is being felt currently, resulting in an unprecedented demand for travel nurses that can bridge the skills gap that healthcare and hospital settings around the country are experiencing.
But what does the future hold for travel nursing? Given the changing political and economic climate, it is, of course, impossible to predict precisely. But there are certain key factors that are inevitable.
Three Factors Affecting the Future
1. The Legal Landscape
The Affordable Care Act has resulted in an additional 20 million people gaining health insurance coverage. While the turbulent political landscape means the long-term future of this law is not clear, its impact is still likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
In addition, proposed laws for patient-nurse ratios as enacted in states such as California could easily become applied to more locations. This would create a requirement for a mandatory number of nurses for every shift, and likely spawn a subsequent call for more qualified practitioners where needed.
2. An Aging Population
Currently, the United States has the highest number of residents over the age of 65 than at any other time in history, and that's expected to grow. Furthermore, the population is living longer, with a greater need for health services as once-terminal conditions are now treatable.
3. Rate of Retirement
The American Nurses Association has reported that 500,000 nurses are expected to retire by 2022, meaning a significant percentage of the current workforce is expected to leave the profession within the next few years.
This isn't just limited to practicing nurses, however. Nursing teaching faculties are experiencing the same retirement issue, with the anticipated outcome being a further limit on the number of nurses entering the profession.
Overall, these changes strongly indicate a continued increase in demand for registered nurses, and the simple fact is, as long as this shortage exists, there will be a greater demand for travel nursing to fill the gaps. This also means an increased opportunity for the enhanced wages, role flexibility and ability to travel that goes with it.
Take pay for instance. Travel nursing salaries are typically higher than in permanent fixed roles. By taking assignments in high-need locations and specialties, travel nurses are empowered to dictate their potential remuneration. In addition, many facilities allow a traveling nurse to work overtime, further increasing earning potential.
Ultimately, the ability to provide qualified, suitable healthcare is a cornerstone of modern society. And while the issues listed above pose a challenge, the fact remains that they are inevitable.
This means the future of travel nursing is poised for an exciting upward trajectory. LEARN MOREabout travel nursing.