Trends in Travel Nursing Pay
2022 was a bit of a roller coaster ride for travel nurses. After growing accustomed to checks in the $4,000 to $6,000 per week range, nursing pay fell as the COVID pandemic got more under control — overall demand for travel nurses also took a hit generally.
It’s not all doom and gloom — there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that pay will continue to be excellent even if the downward trend has you feeling a little uneasy.
Right now, the average travel nurse salary is about $3,000 per week, which translates into $39,000 per 13-week assignment, or about $156,000 a year.
Here are a few reasons why we think 2023 will be a good year for travel nursing salaries.
Demand Is Still High
Don’t think that just because demand has “dipped” that demand is low.
There are still nursing shortages all across the country, and on top of that, there are even shortages of faculty in nursing schools. This is an issue that will likely prevent market saturation among medical travelers for the foreseeable future.
Nursing schools turned away 91,938 qualified nursing applications in part due to the faculty shortage.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth in the nursing sector of 6% in the next decade, totaling approximately 200,000 new nurses.
This number falls in way below what will be needed during that time as the Baby Boomer population ages and nursing demand continues its upward trend.
What does it all mean? Medical facilities are going to be short on nurses for quite a while, and travel nurses are going to have to fill the gaps.
Pay might have gone down a bit, but you can still expect to get great pay as a travel nurse over the next decade.
COVID Hospitalizations Spike During Winter
If the last 2 years are any indication of what to expect for the beginning of 2023, we will likely see a major surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations during the winter, which means an increase in demand.
It’s tough to say whether the spike will be as severe as the winter spike of last year, but early indicators of the transmissibility of the Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 and low vaccination rates for the bivalent booster shot strongly suggest high hospitalizations.
As we finish up year 3 of the COVID pandemic, it’s becoming clear that the virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Even when vaccination rates are high, it’s still a super flu plaguing hospitals with severe illnesses, and those hospitals need to be staffed by qualified professionals.
And hospitals seem to be content with hiring travel workers to meet those demands.
The Economics of Travel Pay Benefit the Hospital
Some people scratch their heads wondering how hospitals can pay travel nurses and other short-term medical staff so much — and staff employees relatively little by comparison — but there is solid economic reasoning for this that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Most hospitals are willing to pay travel nurses so much because even slight increases in pay for staff nurses will cost more in the long run — their pay will remain consistent 365 days per year, even when those nurses aren’t needed.
When hospitals contract travel nurses, they are only on the hook for around 13 weeks, so they can strategically hire people to come in at the most crucial times. Once the contract is up, they can renew that contract if it’s necessary, or they return to relying on their staff nurses.
Hospitals also have the ability to negotiate lower rates with the travel nurse if they overestimated how much work there is to be done, and that’s something they can’t do as easily with their staff.
On top of the flexibility that contract workers afford hospitals, they don’t have to pay any benefits to contract-based employees as those responsibilities fall to the travel agencies.
So, even though much about the medical travel industry can feel chaotic at times and dependent on factors outside of everyone’s control, the economics of travel pay still put travel nurses on top.
State Trends in Travel Nursing
The changes in travel nursing pay haven’t been even across the board, with some states actually reporting higher wages in 2022, while other states have seen much larger pay drops.
Overall, the national average has remained high at around $3,000 per week.
California, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Alaska currently have the highest average pay rates for travel nurses. Minnesota, New Jersey, and Alaska have reported higher wages than in 2021, which was when travel nursing saw a peak in average wages.
On the flip side, Georgia, Arizona, and Florida all saw major declines in travel nursing pay, with 26.6%, 37.9%, and 40.9% declines respectively.
So, even though there have been some drops, you can focus on getting work in states that are still paying top-dollar for their travel nurses.
Travel Nursing Salaries Are Still Pretty High
The takeaway here is that travel nurse salaries are still pretty high. Making over $150K a year isn’t bad at all, and some assignments are going to be above that $3,000-a-week average.
And remember — you can always take breaks in between assignments. You can still make close to $120K a year with only 3 assignments and 3 months off spread out throughout the year.
Looking for an Assignment? Let’s Talk
If you’re looking for your first medical travel assignment — or if you’re looking for your next assignment — we’re here to help