Travel nurse pay drops, but will crisis rates disappear?

The demand for travel nurses is dropping nationwide, and so is the pay, according to an April 8 Spectrum News 1 report.

The drop is good news for ASC owners and operators, who have been competing for nursing talent with hospitals and travel agencies. The rates are beginning to decline, but will it be enough for surgery centers, or will the wages stay inflated long term?

Justine Offutt, BSN, RN, an emergency room nurse who joined a staffing agency last year, said the crisis rates of $90 to $115 per hour have been slowing down as omicron subsides. Andrew Thomas, MD, chief clinical officer of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, told Spectrum News 1 he expects some travel nurses to go back to permanent hospital roles in the next few months as large travel contracts become more scarce.

The Indiana Hospital Association is also seeing local hospital rates for travel nurses dipping. The association told Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV that travel nurse wages dropped to $120 to $190 per hour in April from around $300 per hour during the height of the pandemic. However, the current rates are still about double what they were before the pandemic, according to the report.

"We are also working hard within our hospitals to attract back some of those nurses that chose to travel for a while so there are a lot of incentives, sign-on bonuses for people to come back to the hospital for a more permanent job. We are starting to see [them] come back, but I do think we will still see some people for a period choose travel nursing," Brian Tabor, president of the Indiana Hospital Association, told WRTV.

Travel nurses from across the nation told Kaiser Health News that pay is dropping, as reported by NBC News. Jessica Campbell, RN, said in early April her recruiter told her one week into her 13-week contract that her rate would decrease by $10 per hour.

Kaiser Health News also reported that some hospitals, including Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, negotiated down rates by 50 percent in recent weeks.

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