It’s no deep, dark secret that travel nurses have historically been paid more than their staff counterparts. Usually because of tax-free per diems and stipends. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in 2020, travel nurse pay skyrocketed and the demand for these specialized healthcare globetrotters soared along with it.
By December 2020, there were more than 30,000 open travel nursing positions, more than four times the amount as the same time in 2019, according to the New York Times. So, with help from federal dollars from the CARES Act Provider-Relief Funds and the American Rescue Plan, staffing agencies and healthcare facilities were able to entice more travel nurses with even steeper pay rates, called crisis pay.
What is crisis pay?
Picture this: A massive hurricane hits the Gulf Coast and now the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) is requesting all hands on deck. As a traveling registered nurse (RN), you call your recruiter, find a crisis job in the area, and head to where you’re needed most.
Crisis pay is offered to essential workers, like nurses, when they’re needed to work extra hours, put themselves at risk to help others, or both. For these types of emergency jobs, industry experts suggest crisis pay can range anywhere from 10 to 100 percent higher than the average travel nurse pay at the same healthcare facility.
As the name suggests, crisis contracts happen without warning and usually as a result of an unforeseen event, which is part of why crisis jobs come with premium pay. There are many scenarios where crisis pay would come into play. For example, a global pandemic. Other reasons could be due to census spikes or seasonal surges, disasters (natural or otherwise), and nursing shortages, especially in rural areas.
Another reason for higher crisis pay is because of the urgency. Typically, crisis jobs will be immediate, short-term, or unpredictable. Immediate crisis jobs usually start as soon as possible within two weeks or so. Then, short-term crisis jobs last for about four to 13 weeks. Lastly, unpredictable crisis jobs are just that—unpredictable, so you’ll want to be flexible and ready to roll at a moment’s notice.
Travel nurse crisis pay trends
Over the years, travel nurse crisis pay has remained on a steady rollercoaster, riding the ups and downs of the healthcare industry. But in recent years, healthcare has been in a state of pure panic, with specialized professionals and healthcare facilities scrambling to meet supply and demand.
Travel nursing has always been a great career option. Even pre-pandemic, travel nurses were still in demand to cover staffing shortages from seasonal changes, maternity leaves, or new technology. According to data from Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), revenue in the travel industry tripled between 2009 and 2019. And by 2020, the demand for travel nurses catapulted at least 35 percent.
Since the COVID pandemic made initial waves in the U.S. in 2020, the country has been in a constant state of crisis. Then, when we thought the virus had subsided in early 2021, it came back in a new variant, delta, and then by the end of the year, had morphed into yet another version, omicron.
With an ongoing crisis at hand, travel nurses had the unique opportunity to earn increased pay, sometimes up to 40 percent more than before, depending on the state.
“Job listings in Fargo, North Dakota advertised positions for $8,000 a week,” said the New York Times. “In New York, travelers could make $10,000 or more. The average salary of a staff nurse in Texas is about $75,000; a traveler could make that in months.”
Between January 2020 and January 2022, the advertised pay rate for travel nurses climbed 67 percent, according to Prolucent Health, a workforce management tool for healthcare agencies. While travel nurses were previously used “as a stop-gap,” said Jeffrey Tieman, president and CEO of Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS), today, they can be found “in every department of the hospital every day of the week.”
In fact, between the fiscal years 2020 and 2021, VAHHS increased its travel nursing spending by $29 million, a whopping 35 percent growth. “As the pandemic picked up and dragged on, the need for nurses intensified when the supply of nurses diminished,” said Tieman.
And now, as the pandemic starts to subside and omicron-related hospitalizations continue to decline, travel nursing crisis rates are leveling out across the nation. According to recent data from Indeed, the average salary for a U.S. travel nurse is $2,201 per week with $13,000 of overtime each year. Sure, those travel nursing pay rates may not be as appealing as the previous $8,000 to $10,000 weekly pay packages, but to put it in perspective, the average weekly travel nursing wages in December 2019 was $1,600. And that’s more than the $1,010 median weekly earnings of most full-time working Americans, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). So, overall, not too shabby.
Find travel nursing jobs with Fusion Marketplace
When it comes to finding the perfect travel nursing job, you shouldn’t settle. You are a hard-working, lifesaving, invaluable member of the healthcare community after all. You deserve the best of the best. And Fusion Marketplace helps you find it with total transparency.
“Fusion Marketplace makes it so easy to find travel nursing jobs that pay top dollar,” said Courtney, a traveling hospice RN. “Basically, Fusion Marketplace is a one-stop-shop for everything you need.”
Fusion Marketplace is a traveler-driven platform that puts you in control of your travel nursing career. Here, travel nurses can browse jobs by staffing agency, nursing specialty, travel job location, and best of all, pay package.
“One thing I like about Fusion Marketplace is the pricing transparency,” Courtney said. “I have talked to other companies that like to keep the amount of money you can make disclosed until they know you’re interested. But with Marketplace, you can pop on and browse jobs while seeing the pricing AND without the pressure of having to talk to a representative until you’re ready.”
Fusion Marketplace partners with several healthcare agencies across the U.S. to offer more job variety for travel nurses and allied healthcare travelers. Within each Marketplace job postings, travelers can see the assignment location, pay rate, start date, and more. Plus, the pay transparency on Fusion Marketplace makes it effortless for you to scan travel nursing rates in facilities and cities across the U.S. to ensure what you’re seeing is fair. Knowing this information up front makes it easier for you to compare travel nursing jobs and benefits to narrow down which is right for you.
Getting started on Fusion Marketplace is easy. Simply create your traveler profile, set your travel job preferences, search for healthcare travel jobs, and use the one-click function to apply to multiple jobs that pique your interest. From there, a recruiter will review your traveler profile to qualify you for the job.
With more than 22,000 travel nursing positions available across multiple specialties, agencies, and locations, Fusion Marketplace is one of the top job boards for travel nurses. As the state of crisis in the U.S. shrinks, an ebb and flow in travel nurse crisis pay rates are inevitable. On Fusion Marketplace, you get a VIP pass into travel job pay across all Marketplace agency partners, so you can be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.