Forecast mixed for travel nurse pay

There are differing views as to the future of wages and contracts for traveling nurses among healthcare executives, MedPage Today reported Aug. 4.

The pandemic intensified hospitals' reliance on travel nurses and highlighted the gap between full-time workers' pay and lucrative temporary contracts. Now, some organizations have started to reduce their travel nurse budget and reliance on these workers.

At the same time, staffing shortages continue across the U.S., and organizations continue to work to incentivize their staff to stay in their jobs. And while some industry experts have a negative outlook regarding wages and contracts for traveling nurses amid this trend, others present a different perspective.

In July, Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare released its second-quarter earnings, at which time CEO Sam Hazen said expenses for temporary staff in June were down about 22 percent compared to April, according to The Wall Street Journal. HCA Chief Financial Officer Bill Rutherford also predicted that "over the course of the year, we'll continue to see hopefully a reduction in the utilization of that contract labor."

The Wall Street Journal article stated that some industry leaders anticipate a downturn in wages and contracts for traveling nurses.

However, Patricia Pittman PhD, of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., told MedPage Today that "it's possible that hospital executives' outcry about travel industry pricing was overblown."

She also told the publication she sees signs of a more moderate travel nurse market and said suggestions of the end to the travel nurse pay boom could reflect cyclical staffing needs.

Meanwhile, John Martins, CEO of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cross Country Healthcare, told the Journal that the travel nurse market is bolstered by the flexibility of certain jobs, adding that it is appealing for nurses with significant others who work remotely. He estimated the number of travel nurses in the U.S. could reach 80,000 in 2023, up from 40,000 in 2018. 

Read the full MedPage Today article here. Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.

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