Demand for traveling nurses skyrocketed during the pandemic. In March 2020, there were over 12,000 job opportunities for traveling nurses, but by early December of that year, the number had grown to more than 30,000 open positions. Lauren Hilgers details the experiences of America’s traveling nurses and questions whether this “boom” will continue.
Myriad factors compelled thousands to abandon their permanent posts, among them the flexible nature of being a traveling nurse and its associated lifestyle (fewer hours, better pay). Traveling nurses can often make more in months than they would make as staff nurses in a year. Insufficient support to deal with waves of coronavirus sufferers at hospitals has driven many away.
But, as Hilgers writes, while hospitals have scrambled to hire traveling nurses, many have been chafing at the rising price tag. A number of states are exploring the option to cap travel-nursing pay, and the American Hospital Association is pushing for a congressional inquiry into the pricing practices of travel-nursing agencies. However, Hilgers concludes, the problem is unlikely to be solved until hospitals start considering how to make bedside jobs more desirable.
After two years, nurses in the United States have borne witness to hundreds of thousands of Covid deaths. Should their pay reflect this?
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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.