COVID changed medical travel in ways that no one could have predicted, but now, with many people pandemic-weary and COVID numbers changing across the country (and not necessarily dropping), the demand for medical travelers has dropped.
And as a result, pay has dropped.
There are a few forces driving these changes:
- Reduced hospitalizations
- Lack of pandemic relief funds
- Burnout among travelers
This might be the biggest driver of the changes we’re seeing — hospitalizations are simply going down.
This was the biggest problem that made the pandemic so dangerous. When COVID hospitalizations were thrown into the mix, hospitalizations soared, and many hospitals were simply overwhelmed.
It was pretty horrible. We saw so many instances of people who desperately needed ventilators having to choose between taking one that could help someone else and turning them down.
It was crazy — it wasn’t uncommon to see older people give up their ventilators to younger people. Many lost their lives as a result.
Because hospitalizations increased so massively, hospitals turned to travelers to fill the gaps. Pay soared (for example, some estimates put the average pay for travel nurses during the pandemic at $10,000/week).
But things have changed. No one in healthcare will tell you that the pandemic is over, despite so many people across the country, weary of the pandemic, acting like it is. However, hospitalizations have stabilized, which means that the demand for medical travelers has decreased.
It’s a simple equation — demand has dropped, so pay has dropped. Travelers who took advantage of the high pay rates during the pandemic made out like bandits, but that era is probably over.
The discovery and spread of the Delta variant was probably the peak, and we’re just not likely to ever see anything like that again.
Lack of Pandemic Relief Funds
Another big driver of reduced pay and reduced demand for travelers is that pandemic relief funds have simply run out.
There are a number of reasons for this. The reduction in hospitalizations is one, but the main reason is that states (and the country at large) are just no longer willing to shell out the big bucks to travelers.
That was a big reason so many medical travelers were able to make huge amounts of money during the pandemic.
High demand combined with a lot of government cash to go around meant travelers willing to do the incredibly hard work of walking into a hospital decimated by COVID were able to make some serious cash.
With those funds at an end, and with pretty much zero states (or the federal government) willing to put more money into the pandemic, the incredible rates that some travelers were seeing are probably gone forever.
Travelers Are Going Back to Staffing Jobs
The medical travel lifestyle is tough. It has tons of benefits, including making the big bucks and being paid to see the country, but it’s not for everyone.
Now that the pandemic rates are dropping, many travelers are going back to staff positions.
This reduces the demand for travelers. Hospitals were seeing the opposite throughout the pandemic. People in staff positions were leaving by the thousands because they simply couldn’t put up with how hard things had gotten, and the only people who could take their place were travelers.
But now that the pandemic has eased and, in many cases, workloads have returned to normal (or normal-ish), staff positions have, despite the lower pay, become desirable again.
The Bubble Has Probably Burst
Unless COVID somehow becomes massive again (which is very unlikely), the medical travel bubble has probably burst, and those high rates are likely to continue to drop, possibly even to pre-pandemic levels.
Whether this is a good or bad thing is all about perspective. Sure, pay is going down, but the workload isn’t as crazy. You can still travel and make a lot more than a staff position, but you’re not going to be driving a Bentley anytime soon.
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