What’s Going on With Pay Drops for Medical Travel in 2022?


Over the past year, you might have noticed that your contracts aren’t paying what they used to.

It’s true — pay has been dropping, and there’s no sign that it’s picking back up.

And while there’s no denying that pay for travel medical professionals has been taking a hit all across the board, the pay is still very high, and there are plenty of positions to be filled all around the country.

Here’s why pay is dropping and why you shouldn’t be concerned about the future prospects of medical travel work.

Hospital Revenues Have Dropped

One of the biggest reasons that contracts aren’t paying what they used to is that most hospitals have been operating at a loss for the last couple of years — labor has been one of the biggest reasons for that.

Contract labor itself has been responsible for over one-third of the increase in hospital operating costs, so naturally this is an area where they’re trying to cut costs.

It’s expected that 68% of the nation’s hospitals will end the year in the red, which is almost double what that number was in 2019.

To make things worse, health insurance companies have been tighter with their wallets as well, putting up bigger fights on claims and denying coverage left and right. This puts the cost of care back onto patients, who aren’t able to settle the bills nearly as quickly.

State and Federal COVID Relief Funds are Drying Up

Many leaders around the country have felt the pressure to declare the pandemic over, and there has been significantly less public support for emergency COVID measures, like relief funds for people and hospitals.

Even during the height of the pandemic, when you might think that healthcare providers were raking in more cash than they knew what to do with, hospitals were still regularly operating at a loss, and it took billions in government funds to keep them from imploding.

Relief funds are something that may come back if another surge were to hit, but since everyone pretty much wants to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, even when infections and hospitalizations are still moderately high, it’s not very likely.

Overall Demand Has Dropped… But It’s Still High

It was a snowball effect that caused the surge in demand for travel work at the beginning of the pandemic.

Some hospitals reported paying well over $200 per hour for medical travelers, and during this pay boom, all types of medical professionals decided that traveling was too awesome to resist.

Once hospitalizations waned and the need for round-the-clock care started to diminish, pay started decreasing, and more people returned to staff positions, which has driven down demand even further.

Even though there is still a workforce shortage across the board in hospitals, the skyrocketing expenses have caused most hospitals to shut down sections of the hospital and lower capacity limits instead of bringing on contract employees to fill those gaps.

The good news is that this has done very little to curb the demand for travel employees, and there is still a huge market for medical travelers to make great money across the board.

The Bottom Line

The pay rates that we saw in the height of the early pandemic and then with the Delta and Omicron variants are most likely gone for good. The money that was given out by hospitals and the government just was not sustainable long-term.

As we’ve seen in the last two years with the pandemic, the upcoming fall and winter months will likely see a surge in hospitalizations and another boost in demand for short and medium-term medical staff, but it’s unlikely that the pay will reach those historic levels anytime soon.

The good news is that pay for all medical travelers is still incredibly high and far more than what you’re going to get working in a staff position.

Even if the pay totally bottoms out to pre-pandemic levels, medical travelers can still earn anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 per week.

That’s pretty far from chump change.

If you only started your medical travel career because the pay was 6-8x what you were making, then this might be the time to go back to a staff position.

But if you love the work, if you love meeting new people all across the country, and if you are comfortable earning a steady weekly income in the $1,500 to $3,500 range, then there are plenty of contracts and plenty of hospitals waiting for you.

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