Travel Healthcare Market Update March 2021: Job Peak and Decline
The healthcare job market has been a roller coaster since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Demand for nurses and allied health professionals skyrocketed for COVID-related specialties, while decreased for others. As we embark on the year-mark since the nationwide emergency declaration, here’s a look at current trends in travel nursing and allied health, and how travelers will be impacted.
The Peak of Healthcare Jobs
The demand and number of nursing and allied health jobs nationwide peaked in January 2021 following the holidays. January is also typically the No. 1 month for healthcare travelers to start a new assignment. StaffDNA’s job board, which is updated in real-time directly from healthcare facilities, saw a record number of 20,000+ nursing and allied openings in January. Pay rates also peaked with some facilities and locations offering RNs up to $125/hr or more depending on speciality.
Decline in Demand
However, several new factors in place to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 have decreased the demand for healthcare travelers. Since the COVID-19 vaccination efforts began, more than 68 million does have now been administered and the U.S. is averaging giving 1.5 million shots a day, according to federal data. Additionally healthcare workers and nursing homes were given priority for the vaccine, which has decreased the number of new cases in those more vulnerable areas. Social distancing measures, wearing masks and more testing are also helping curb the spread, resulting in fewer hospitalizations and more ICU beds available.
“The number of job openings on our job board has significantly decreased since January and we continue to see more jobs on-hold or not being filled due to lower census,” said Jennifer Pomietlo, VP of Business Development at StaffDNA.
As of the end of February 2021, StaffDNA’s job board has dropped to approximately 8,000 nursing and allied health jobs. With the decrease of demand, healthcare facilities are also scaling back their bill rates and offering lower pay packages than before.
Extensions to Lock in High Pay
Nursing assignments that started in January will be coming to an end in April. For travelers to keep the high-paying rates they received in January, they should extend their assignment to lock in their current pay agreement instead of taking a new, and most likely lower paying travel job.
“Hospitals are gradually dropping their rates for healthcare travelers, so we recommend current travelers to extend their assignment now if they want to lock in their existing higher paying rate,” said Pomietlo. “There are still some crisis needs out there, but not at the large scale they once were, and they come with higher competition.”
“Traditionally healthcare travelers are used to asking for increased rates when extending a contract but that’s not the case in today’s market,” said David McKenzie, VP of Operations at StaffDNA. “Now the conversation has shifted. Instead of asking ‘how much of an increase can I get?’ nurses need to be asking, ‘how can we extend to get the same rate before it drops?’”
Allied Health Forecast
With fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations, facilities will be preparing to ramp up elective surgeries again, which will increase the demand for travelers in those specialties including allied professionals such as surgical technicians and sterile processing technicians. StaffDNA has approximately 1,000 unique jobs open for allied health professionals on their Job Board and that is expected to continue to increase.
Travel Nursing Outlook
While the demand for nurses isn’t as high as it was in January, there are still needs for travelers. For example, Indian Health Service facilities recently released more than 100 nursing jobs for all specialties and will prebook for April start dates.
As more states get vaccinated and relax social distancing guidelines, there is the likelihood for another wave of COVID-19 cases resulting in another increased demand for healthcare travelers. Only time will tell.
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