Staffing Shortages: The Role of External and In-House Travel Agencies


Ashley Hotovec | May 15th, 2023

When COVID-19 struck the world spring of 2020, patient demand suddenly increased wreaking havoc to healthcare professionals mental health and overwhelming a large portion of hospitals. With the surge starting in large cities and making its way to small rural towns, hospital systems everywhere were slammed with a startling number of patients with no available beds and what seemed like nurses and doctors leaving the profession left and right. On top of that, the rise in infection rates among essential workers only kept increasing, leaving those left standing with double the patient load. With the continual downfall of staff nurses, travel nurses were on the frontlines as temporary help caring for patients during the pandemic with hospitals willing to pay hundreds of dollars per hour.

However, with COVID-19 cases finally slowing after nearly 3 years, the same nurses that were making $10,000 per week are now making that or less in a month. With rates and demand for travel nurses dipping, hospital systems are having a hard time filling their needs because they are also struggling to hire permanent positions to replace nurses that quit, retired, or pursued jobs elsewhere due to the exhaustion of the COVID-19 battle. Staffing shortages are being seen across the nation and a nursing crisis is undeniably upon us. 

External travel agencies have become popular amidst the ongoing pandemic, allowing nurses to work at different healthcare facilities in areas of heightened demand across the United States while earning high hourly rates and stipends. Along with high pay, another benefit to travel nursing is being able to pick your own schedule. With the pros outweighing the cons, staff turnover is increasing with more and more staff nurses continuing to leave their permanent positions for external agencies.

To compete, hospital systems have started to offer their own travel staffing agencies. The purpose of this program is to depend less on travel agency staff and inspire permanent staff employees who are intrigued by travel nursing to stay within their organization and travel to hospitals within the system.

In-house Staffing Agency Pros

  • In-house staffing agencies offer an opportunity for permanent staff to experience the benefits of travel nursing:
    • Shorter commitments – As short as 6-weeks, contracts at a set of constrained locations owned by the healthcare system
    • Better pay – Boosts in permanent staff salaries to lure in full-time employees
    • Ability to travel – Travel to specific hospitals and clinics within the healthcare system.

In-house Staffing Agency Cons

  • With the advantages come the possible downsides to in-house staffing programs:
    • Shortages may increase – Reallocating their already sparse from smaller and less desirable hospitals and clinics will add to the nursing shortage and ultimately harm patients
    • Will need to be able to properly resource their team – Staffing experts who can bring the proper experience to the team
    • Attracting recruiters from external agencies – In-house systems will have to pay a hefty price
    • Internal staffing agency will only grow and grow – The ability to save money faster than the rising costs of the program is unlikely, setting up a staffing team and healthcare professionals to fail

Many are unaware of the benefits that come with using an external staffing agency to land a travel nurse assignment. External agencies not only assist clients looking to fill temporary positions with eager travel nurse applicants, but also provide great benefits, career advice, and support from a recruiter who always has their candidate’s best interest at heart.

External Staffing Agency Benefits

  • Health insurance starting day one
  • 401K with a company match
  • Travel and license reimbursement where applicable
  • Bonuses – referral and loyalty
  • Higher rates that in-house staffing programs – Allows travel nurses to earn higher salaries than permanent staff

The best part about going the external route is getting all these benefits and support at no extra cost to the traveler. Travel nurses can travel the world, pursue their passion, receive endless support and benefits, all while increasing patient satisfaction and assisting the nursing shortage we are seeing today.



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