Nursing Shortage - Page 4
Travel Nursing and the Nursing Shortage
Travel nursing has been around for quite some time now. The industry began as nurses wanted to ski the slopes in the winter and sun bathe on California beaches in the summer, while being able to make a living at the same time. As the nursing shortage is reaching all time highs, travel nurses are in higher demand than ever. For hospitals that have had difficulty recruiting and hiring permanent staff, travel nurses have filled a gap that allows the hospitals to continue to fill beds, and in some cases, keep them open. Industry Analysts are reporting that 15,000 to 20,000 traveling nurses are used each week in U.S. hospitals.
Travel nurses enjoy the opportunity to travel and earn higher salaries. Housing and traveling expenses, health benefits, and a retirement program are all part of a good compensation package. Agencies report that many of their nurses make about twice as much as they would if they were staff at the same facility. Salaries vary by experience, location, and specialty, but generally run $22 to $35 an hour, translating to a salary of $44,000 to $70,000 for a nurse working 40 hours per week 50 weeks a year. A travel nurse in California may exceed $100,000 a year with overtime, says CEO of Aya Healthcare, Alan Braynin. The largest benefit to being a travel nurse is that they can pick and choose where they want to work and when. Rules about mandatory overtime, weekends, and holidays do not apply.
Staffing companies say that California has the largest market for traveling nurses. Currently there are 14,000 open nursing jobs in the state. In many cases these positions must be filled and are done so with travelers. In fact, 6% to 15% of California nursing positions are being filled with travelers.
There are 1.8 million nurses working primarily in hospitals, this is where the shortage will be felt the most and is being anticipated with the greatest concern. However, all practice settings will ultimately be affected. Past economic solutions will not work this time around; this shortage is unparalleled. It is structural in nature and will require many short and long term strategies in order to avert the crisis. What is for certain is that if proactive steps are not taken it will run its course.
Factors that have undermined the desirability of nursing as a career must be eliminated, workplaces must be improved, and cultures must be developed to empower and value nurses. Nursing schools need resources, substandard care cannot be tolerated, and most importantly, hospitals must foster a culture of retention. The demographics of the nursing profession - aging nurses, aging faculty, and low enrollment, combined with the demographics of society - aging baby boomers, and requirements for a higher level of medical care, are on a devastating course; however, it is not too late.