Working as a travel nurse offers a vast range of opportunities. It can be a rewarding way to build a resume at the best hospitals in the country, to develop professional skills and hone experience in a subspecialty, to enjoy housing, travel reimbursements and competitive pay, and to experience life in a new part of the country — or even the world.
So, why is there so much buzz in the marketplace that travel nurse pay is declining? Is that what’s really happening or are there other factors at play? While travel nursing can provide unlimited flexibility, it does come with the challenge of fluctuations in the job market.
Until recently, travel nurses have enjoyed the generous compensation associated with “crisis pay” and nursing demand, creating a false sense of higher pay rates for travel nurses. Lately, however, rates have begun to equalize. In 2016 and 2017, demand for travel nurses escalated significantly due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid and Medicare changes and unemployment rates. The demand and compensation peaked during the first quarter of 2017, but has subsequently returned to pre-crisis levels. For those who are currently entering the field and for travel nurses who began during that time, this return to standardized travel nurse pay rates has given the perception that travel nurse pay is falling, when in reality it’s a return to non-crisis rates.
Is Travel Nursing Still Worth it?
Absolutely! During this transitional time, it may be helpful to explore the underlying factors driving travel nurse pay and to learn why the benefits of travel nursing outweigh this return to equilibrium and pre-crisis compensation.
What Drives Travel Nurse Pay?
The healthcare field. Current healthcare policy affects the number of patients seeking care. Changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and Medicaid cause a flux in the number of people seeking health care and the demand for providers.
The labor market. The number of available travel nursing positions depends not only on the labor market in general, but also on how many nurses are in the field and how many of them are choosing to travel. When hospitals implement “crisis pay” to entice more nurses to travel, the field fills quickly.
The bottom line. Healthcare organizations are realigning budgets to reflect the current market. They will not be able to sustain the high pay rates that were used during the shortage to draw in travel nurses. While this feels like a significant reduction in pay for travelers, it is part of the return to pre-crisis standard billing rates.
What are the Benefits of Partnering with Cross Country Nurses?
The access. When there are fluctuations in travel nurse demand, smaller agencies tend to have fewer opportunities and hospitals and healthcare facilities rely on larger travel nurse staffing agencies to fill their needs. Cross Country Nurses has exclusive agreements with facilities across the nation, and when demand decreases, Cross Country Nurses still has the bulk of positions available due to these exclusive agreements. With thousands of travel nurse positions in every state across the U.S. at any given time and partnerships with more than 2,500 healthcare facilities, we have the jobs! Annually, we place over 10,000 nurses on assignment.
The pay. Although billing rates are normalizing, travel nursing remains a great career offering competitive compensation, housing, and travel reimbursements. On select assignments, Cross Country Nurses offers sign-on and completion bonuses. We also have a referral bonus program.
The perks. Cross Country Nurses offers our nurses a range of benefits including medical, dental, prescription coverage, life insurance, portable insurance, dependent coverage, supplemental, short-term disability coverage, professional liability coverage, and optional cancer protection and critical illness insurance. We offer move-in ready private housing through our team of housing experts, and we cover your moving expenses between assignments. Our nurses have access to a 401k retirement plan, free CEUs with Cross Country University, and up to 20 percent reimbursement for Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.
The recruiters. Our recruiters serve as a main point of contact, shoulder to lean on, and lifeline for our travel nurses. Cross Country Nurses recruiters work to help nurses find the right location, the right facility, and the right shift through open and honest dialog regarding needs, expectations, strengths, and limitations.
What Travel Nurses are Saying
Our nurse travelers recognize the benefits of working with a larger organization and with recruiters who are highly skilled in the nuances of travel nursing in times of fluctuating demand. After all, we have the most experienced recruiters in the industry with an average 7.1 years of tenure specifically in recruiting travel nurses with Cross Country Nurses.
Why is a tenured recruiter important for you as a traveler? They know how to navigate the nuances of travel assignments. They have seen what can go wrong, and they know how to handle it. When you work with a Cross Country Nurses recruiter, you have a trusted contact who will walk you through the process every step of the way. Our recruiters respond quickly, and after getting to know you and the facilities where we have positions, we can make the best placement for you. That way, you will be as happy with your assignment as these travelers are:
“I had a great recruiter. She always got back to me. As a new traveler, this whole process was overwhelming, and she definitely helped. Overall, Cross Country Nurses has a big selection of jobs which I like. I love that my insurance starts right away, and I can have up to 35 days between contracts and still be covered.”
- Alyssa M., Travel Nurse
“I’ve been working with Cross Country for over 15 years and plan on working with them another 15 years. They have great locations, excellent pay, and top-rated staff with excellent support. My recruiter is the best and I can always count on her to be there for me. I have tried other companies in-between assignments, but it’s like taking a step down – it’s just not the same.”
- Wayne H., Travel Nurse
“My experience with Cross Country has been great! They were able to get me my dream job in less than two weeks. They were also able to find safe and nice housing that accepted my dog!“
- Alexis J., Travel Nurse
“I wouldn't travel with anyone else - and I don't! I have the best and most experienced recruiter in the business. Cross Country Nurses has the most jobs and has all of the resources I need for housing, payroll, benefits, etc. They make it easy to keep traveling and have fun!”
- Marianne T., Travel Nurse
The Future of Nursing is Bright
There will inevitably be fluctuations in the market and in compensation for travel nurses, but the benefits and rewards make it an ideal profession for those looking for flexibility and adventure. “We understand on a deeper level the needs of both the healthcare system and the healthcare provider,” says Cross Country Staffing Executive Vice President, Wendi Dusseault. It’s easy to start exploring a travel nursing adventure. Just connect with us and get started today.