Competition for Travel Nursing Jobs Ramping Up

travel nursing competition increasing By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

The healthcare industry has seen its share of changes in recent years, but the need for nurses has remained strong. In fact, many areas of the country have seen an increase in demand. 

Health systems are vying for talent while wanting to remain flexible in their staffing, thus filling certain vacancies with contingency labor. This trend is creating opportunities for varied and interesting travel nursing assignments. 

In turn, more nurses are pursuing travel nursing jobs as a career option.

“We have seen significant growth in demand in the last several years,” said Marcia Faller, PhD, RN, chief clinical officer for AMN Healthcare, the nation’s largest healthcare staffing and workforce solutions company. 

“Health care is experiencing enormous changes, and there are more opportunities for nurses and travel nurses that did not exist 5 to 10 years ago.”

New health care models affecting travel nursing jobs

A number of factors have come into play to create more interest in travel nursing jobs—from both the employer and the candidate point of view. 

The health care industry is constantly being pressured to do more with less. This is causing health care employers to look for new care delivery models and increased flexibility from their staffing plans. 

“The existing care delivery model is not sustainable; it’s too expensive,” Faller said. 

Among the changes being made, employers now have more telemedicine opportunities for “virtual” nurses and physicians. Health systems have embraced new technology in other areas, as well, creating additional opportunities for clinicians.

“There are a lot of technology and health care initiatives that are creating demand for travel nurses,” Faller said. 

For instance, travel nurses are often brought in to assist with electronic medical record (EMR) system implementations and updates, and employers are looking for nurses with specific expertise in their EMR system.

An aging population that needs more care, both in and out of the hospital, is also affecting the kind of nursing expertise that is in demand.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 22 million additional people secured health insurance, enabling them to gain access to health care and elective procedures they may have been putting off. 

While Faller has not seen a change in nursing demand over the last few months, some experts predict that ongoing efforts to replace or substantially revise the ACA could limit the number of nursing jobs in the future.

Competition for travel nursing jobs varies by specialty and location

Strong demand continues for nurses who can work on specialty units, including travel nursing assignments in operating rooms, emergency departments, labor and delivery suites and critical care units. 

Other specialties have fewer openings compared to the number of candidates, creating greater competition for the available positions. Faller reported that the number of requests for medical-surgical nurses has grown over the last couple of years, however.

Additionally, more hospitals are requesting case managers than in the past. 

“With the Affordable Care Act, changes in reimbursements and organizations initiating population health management initiatives, the need for case managers is growing and will continue to grow,” Faller said. 

Regardless of the specialty, the most competitive travel nursing jobs tend to be those in nationally ranked hospitals and the more popular destinations across the country, so nurses are urged to get their applications in several weeks or months in advance if they have a preference.

Advance planning works for employers and nurses

“Organizations have become more sophisticated in using travel nurses,” Faller said. “They are comfortable with the quality of travel nurses. They know there is a strategic purpose for travel nurses, and are making them a part of their staffing plans.” 

Healthcare facilities use travelers to cover staffing needs for a variety of purposes, including: family medical leaves and vacations; extended vacancies; census fluctuations; new unit openings or service offerings; and project implementations. 

More hospitals are also using nurse staffing software to better understand their personnel needs and to ensure they have the right mix of staff and contingency nurses to deliver optimal care.

With proper planning, facilities can often gauge their needs several months ahead of time.

The same goes for nurses who are interested in travel RN jobs.

“Nurses are advised to book far in advance,” Faller said. “That gives them the best opportunity to get the job they want, and to be fully prepared for that job.”

Preparation might include securing a nursing license in the state with the new assignment. Or it may involve the nurse getting a required certification. 

Early commitments lead to smoother job transitions and on-time start dates. They also provide peace of mind for the traveling nurse.

Why more nurses are vying for travel nursing jobs

Few jobs offer the chance to explore the country and travel on someone else’s dime—but travel nurses can do just that.

In addition to a competitive salary, travelers receive free, company-arranged housing or a housing stipend. They also receive travel reimbursements, health insurance, a 401k plan, per diem for meals, and free continuing education, among other travel nurse benefits.

More and more nurses have also discovered that traveling nurse jobs offer a professional development opportunity to develop a more diverse and desirable resume. These jobs showcase their abilities to work with others in different regions. 

“Travel nurses have an opportunity to work in places that are renowned,” Faller said. “They also can work in rural communities and in underserved communities. Traveling is a unique opportunity that provides experience with different places and people.”

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