During the height of the pandemic, the job market was wide open for healthcare professionals willing to travel to COVID-19 ‘hot spots’ and train in areas such as ICU and med-surg. Travel nurses and other healthcare workers could expect ultra-high pay rates and a steady supply of open positions.
As the urgency around COVID declines, decreased pay rates and the demand for COVID unit nurses have also fallen off. But this changing landscape doesn’t mean that travel healthcare workers are no longer needed. In fact, recruiters are seeing encouraging job growth in areas that were scaled back, or even shut down, during the pandemic, as well as in areas that may or may not be related to the pandemic.
In the early days of the pandemic, the government recommended the cancellation of elective procedures. The nation’s healthcare system was under attack and needed all hands, and personal protective equipment, on deck to manage the rising tide of COVID cases.
Healthcare providers found it necessary to step back and reconsider the infection control measures necessary to resume elective surgeries.
Despite the two-month surgical moratorium, elective surgery rates rose after April of 2020 as viral testing rolled out and the healthcare system adapted to the new normal, but many surgeries remained on hold as the nation continued to grapple with new and ever-changing pandemic rules.
Recruiters are now seeing an increase in openings at surgery centers, for both nurses and allied healthcare professionals, as surgery centers work to clear the backlog of procedures.
Surgical areas in need of nurses include:
- Operating Rooms
- Postanesthesia Care Units
- Preoperative Care Units
Allied healthcare professionals seeing a growth in travel openings include:
- Surgical Technicians
- Sterile Processing Technicians
- Respiratory Therapists
Even though fewer people are being admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, medical-surgical and telemetry units remain major employers of travel nurses and allied healthcare workers with a high number of open positions peppering travel healthcare job boards.
The summer is looking bright as the nation embraces travel and outdoor activities again. The increase in the number of people traveling away from home can be expected to result in the usual bumps, bruises and breaks that land weekend warriors in the emergency department.
Emergency department visits declined by 30% in April 2020, as people experiencing non-emergency health conditions chose not to risk exposure to the COVID-19 virus. The number of ED visits rose following the initial drop, but remained lower than normal through most of 2020.
Now, recruiters are noticing an uptick in ED openings for travelers as COVID transmission rates decline and people are more comfortable being around others.
Other Areas Seeing Growth in Travel Healthcare Openings
The healthcare system may be able to predict some staffing trends in a post-pandemic world, but recruiters are seeing job growth in a few areas where the reason for growth is not so clear.
Labor and Delivery
Recruiters are seeing more openings for labor and delivery nurses since the height of the pandemic.
Perhaps couples were holding off having babies because of the risk of contracting COVID-19 in hospitals. Or maybe parents chose to have their babies at free-standing birthing centers or at home with attending midwives. We may never know why labor and delivery jobs are more plentiful now than during the height of the pandemic, but if you’re an experienced L&D nurse, this may be your moment to try travel nursing.
This may also be a good time for pediatric nurses and respiratory therapists to try their hand at traveling.
Open positions for pediatric nurses, including in neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, are on an upward trend. Recruiters are also seeing more demand for pediatric respiratory therapists.
Travel healthcare recruiters are seeing more openings in rehabilitation units and facilities.
While the reason for the rising demand for rehab professionals is not clear, it may make sense if you consider the high number of surgery center openings. As the rate of elective surgeries increases, there will likely be a greater need for post-surgical rehabilitation, especially for folks who may have postponed their joint replacement surgeries.
Recruiters are seeing an increased demand for hospice nurses.
As mentioned earlier, the pandemic made people fearful of being around other people. Perhaps families decided not to engage with hospice care during the intense days of the pandemic in an effort to keep the virus from invading their homes or to keep their loved one from contracting the virus while in a hospice unit.
The pandemic may have been a boon for traveling healthcare professionals, but the demand for travelers continues even as COVID case numbers decline. Whether you are a nurse or allied healthcare professional, recruiters are happy to help you navigate your way into a travel career.
By Alex Gray, Team Lead, Senior Recruiter, Planet Healthcare
Photo Credit: Canva