During the past couple of years — because of the pandemic and the national staffing shortage — entrepreneurial nurses left their steady jobs to travel the country and work at various hospitals.
Although many of these travel nurses say they have no plans to return to a full-time hospital job, some are open to the idea — but only if the facility can offer some guarantees, Becker’s Hospital Review reported.
According to NBC News, travel nurses earned, on average, $125 an hour last year. That’s about three times what a typical staff nurse earned, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Shauna Painter, RN, ADN, was a staff nurse for six years before leaving to become a travel nurse at the beginning of the pandemic.
“Hospital systems need to do a better job at valuing a nurse’s (and all hospital staff’s) worth and paying them accordingly,” Painter told Becker’s. “Compensation should match expertise, training and worth.”
John Galley, chief human resources officer at Pittsburgh-based UPMC, told Becker’s it’s not that easy. According to Galley, about half of a health system’s operating expenses goes toward salaries and benefits.
“If you were to double a good portion of that — the nursing salaries — you’d completely wipe out any operating margin. Then you wouldn’t be able to invest in anything to keep the hospitals going,” he said.
It’s not just the pay that attracts travel nurses; it’s the flexibility in schedules.
“I can get time off when needed after each contract and vacation with my family as long as I want to,” Yasmine Seidu, BSN, RN, told Becker’s.
Seidu said that as a staff nurse she was given only six weeks off to spend with her newborn. “If my baby was born when I was working as a travel nurse, I could take all the time I needed to bond with my child with no restrictions and fear of losing my job if I stayed longer,” she added.
Guaranteed nurse-patient ratios
Safety is also a concern for travel nurses, with nurses having to care for too many patients at once.
“Most staff nurses are taking 5 or 6 patients in med-surg units, which is understandable given the nursing shortage, but it means that staff nurses are often working long hours without any breaks,” Painter told Becker’s. “It also means that in some cases, patients are not receiving the adequate time with their nurses that they deserve.
“Travel nurses are often assigned fewer patients,” she added. “So as a traveler, I am able to focus more on the patient than the traditional staff nurse who is overextended.”
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