Why hospitals are likely to lean on travel nurses after pandemic threat ends

Hospitals' reliance on travel nurses to fill workforce gaps is certain to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic threat ends as organizations grapple with demand for care unrelated to the virus and the departure of nurses from full-time staff jobs, Bloomberg News reported March 15.

The pandemic intensified hospitals' reliance on travel nurses and highlighted the gap between full-time workers' pay and lucrative temporary contracts. Now organizations continue to struggle to fill job vacancies in a tight labor market. Many hospitals and health systems are paying more to retain and recruit workers, whether it be through compensation or benefits. High housing costs are also preventing some workers from taking healthcare jobs.

Amid workforce shortages, Troy Clark, president and CEO of the New Mexico Hospital Association, told Bloomberg News the financial damage hospitals face from staffing costs is likely to grow.

"Everybody is searching for more staff, asking your staff to take on longer shifts," Mr. Clark told the publication. "That encourages them to go, 'If I'm going to do all this work, I might as well go become a traveler and get paid a heck of a lot more.'"

Part of hospitals' struggles come from workers leaving their full-time jobs at hospitals for various reasons. Some have left because of emotional exhaustion, while others have taken a travel or agency nurse role or retired early. 

In New Jersey, hospitals more than tripled their 2020 spending on agency and travel staff last year, estimating they spent $670 million, according to a recent survey from the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Meanwhile, interest in travel nursing has not faded, with data from Indeed showing searches more than five times levels seen before the pandemic, according to Bloomberg News.

Experts told the publication persistent demand for travel nurses will continue as long as the current workforce gaps exist.

Read the full report here

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