Travel nursing rises as a prominent industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo illustration by Anabel Howery)

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The rise of travel nursing during COVID-19

Travel nursing has been an industry on the rise during the pandemic.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/ajyhowery/" target="_self">Anabel Howery</a>

Anabel Howery

March 30, 2022
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the downfall of many industries as high unemployment rates swept the U.S. during its early stages. There was one industry, amongst a few others, that began to rise with the bubbling panic that was surfacing throughout the nation: travel nursing.

In the field of travel nursing, nurses are assigned to short-staffed hospitals through travel nursing agencies; these agencies first provide contracts that detail how much a nurse will be paid hourly by a hospital, as well as how much money the agency will offer in stipends for expenses such as housing and food, according to a video by John Farnsworth, an ICU Travel Nurse who has been working in the health care industry for over 20 years.

Contracts usually require the nurse to work for 13 weeks at the facility, with each week averaging three days of 12-hour shifts, Beebee Berluce said in a YouTube video. Berluce is a registered nurse who took on travel nursing a few years prior to the start of the pandemic, she’s said in her videos. If nurses accept the contract, they will be on their way to the hospital at a set time and date.

These nurses can request a certain state or city they would like to work at, and their agencies will search for any openings available at those locations. Additionally, it is well-known that this occupation is quite lucrative; in the year 2019, the average salary for travel nurses totaled $1,786 per week, according to Trusted Health, a well-known travel nursing agency. This figure was shown to jump by 14% when COVID-19 came around, according to CNN.

This industry undoubtedly appealed to many medical-care workers before the rise of the pandemic, so it is no surprise that many nurses dived into this line of work after COVID-19 alarms blared in hospitals all over the nation. Veteran nurses began retiring early due to the unanticipated crisis, unable to keep up with the panic and chaos that ensued throughout heavily-hit hospitals, according to The Atlantic.

As medical-care workers began leaving the industry, hospitals found themselves short-staffed and in need of temporary nurses to fill in vacant spots as the number of COVID-infected patients began to surge, Berluce said in her video. She said that crisis assignments, as they are known, provide some of the highest-paying contracts that a nurse can obtain due to the urgency of a situation.

With more of these crises appearing throughout the US, travel nurses found less competition for such jobs as they were in high demand. Some workers’ pay rates rose by 164% from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2021 according to Time. Travel nurses were making exceedingly more profit than they were a few years ago, and its promise of prosperity reached nurses nationwide.

It is now 2022, and the pandemic is slowly reaching a steady halt across the country. The decrease in infections will lead to a decline in crisis assignments, which may obstruct the surge of this industry. As the nation goes back to its “normal pre-COVID” years, it can be expected that travel nursing will follow suit.

Although it could still be a profitable career for nurses in the future, it may never reach the peak that it attained during the chaotic years of the pandemic.

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