The state of travel nurse pay: 5 trends to know

After two years of exponential rises in average pay for travel nurses due to workforce shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in patients hospitalized from the virus and its subsequent variants, average travel pay trends declined last year and then stabilized nationally, according to a new report from Vivian Health, a national healthcare hiring marketplace.    

The report, shared with Becker's on Jan. 30, examined Vivian Health's data aggregated since September 2019 to get a closer look at how the pandemic has affected travel nurse pay. As of Jan. 5, there were 645,243 active registered nurse travel jobs on the Vivian Health platform nationwide in the last 90 days.

Five findings from the report:

1. Average weekly travel nurse pay climbed from $1,896 in January 2020 to $3,782 in December 2021, a 99.47 percent increase.

2. According to Vivian Health, a new floor for average travel nurse pay materialized in July 2022, at $2,997 per week, as pay declined, then stabilized in the U.S. 

3. Vivian Health attributed the steady decline in 2022 pay to fewer federal dollars going to hospitals for large travel contracts as well as a move away from travel roles toward permanent nursing roles.

4. Over the past two years, the highest-paying roles for travel nurses were in the intensive care unit, emergency department, medical surgery and home health. 

5. Moving forward, Vivian Health said it "believes the line between contract and staff roles will continue to blur. Travel clinicians who had never participated in travel nursing prior to the pandemic now have a taste for the flexibility that accompanies short-term contracts. At the same time, per diem and per-shift work is on the rise. Healthcare employers who can adapt and create flexible work schedules will ultimately retain and attract the best talent."

More information about Vivian Health is available here.

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