Why Do Hospitals Hire Travel Nurses? 10 Benefits for Employers

Last Updated on July 11, 2024

Why Do Hospitals Hire Travel Nurses? 10 Benefits for Healthcare Employers from CareerStaff.com

The use of travel nursing surged dramatically when Covid-19 first struck in 2020, and has held strong in the years since. But for healthcare employers that haven’t explored this key contingent staffing solution, what are the benefits of using travel nurses? Moreover, why do hospitals hire travel nurses, and why are more and more other facilities — like long-term care (LTC) providers — increasingly doing the same?

Discover the importance of travel nurses, why their use has surged, and benefits bring to hospitals, LTC providers, and all types of other healthcare facilities.

What Healthcare Employers Should Know about Travel Nursing

Travel nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work as contractors for a specified period of time. Fully licensed, credentialed, and qualified to fill a number of staff roles, travel nurses help facilities meet staffing needs during shortages, emergencies, surges in patient census, and a variety of other situations.

Travel nurses work with an agency, like CareerStaff, who do the work of sourcing, hiring, and paying them. Contracts are usually set at 13 weeks, but can be longer or shorter as needed. Some employers choose to extend contracts to retain a particularly important nurse. 

Why Hiring Travel Nurses Matter for Hospitals and Health Employers

In the past, hospitals and large health centers often used travel nurses to meet the demands of caring for large, diverse communities. Today, though, many other types of employers are hiring them, as well. Nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other LTC providers are hiring travel nurses in greater numbers. And so are rehab facilities, home health providers, doctor’s offices, surgical centers, prisons, and schools, among many others.

10 Benefits of Hiring Travelers

From ensuring continuity of care to nurse-to-patient ratios, hiring travel nurses is an essential part of successful workforce strategy for many hospitals and healthcare facilities today. And, while the pandemic may have spurred this trend, its roots lie much deeper. In reality, the use of travel nurses continues to grow because of the many benefits they offer to healthcare employers of all types.

#1: Meeting Staffing Requirements

Experts have predicted a nursing shortage for years — a crisis that’s already hit some areas. For healthcare employers operating in those areas, simply finding the nurses needed to deliver essential care can be a challenge.

And since Covid-19, more and more specific staffing requirements have been mandated by local authorities. Many states have redefined their laws on nurse-to-patient ratios since the pandemic. For some facilities, these metrics are simply difficult to meet. Hiring travel nurses help hospitals, LTC providers, and other facilities fill in those gaps with experienced, skilled RNs.

#2: Dealing with Seasonal Spikes in Patient Census

Sometimes even a fully staffed facility needs assistance. Many employers have to strategize around seasonal surges in patient demand. Some of these are universal, like flu or back-to-school season. Others impact specific areas, such as the summer migrations of older Americans in places like Florida and Arizona.

When answering the question of why do hospitals hire travel nurses — or why any other healthcare facility should want to — one of the most traditional answers has been the simple meet to meet seasonal demands. Travelers easily fill in when spikes in patient census occur. And they do so without the need to hire new staff, or make difficult layoffs in the off-season.  

#3: Dealing with Crises

Not all staffing shortages can be anticipated. Hiring travel nurses can help hospitals and other employers deal with the impact of spikes in utilization caused by natural disaster or other catastrophic events. Whether it’s a regional outbreak or national pandemic, travel nursing agencies give employers instant access to a network of skilled and experienced RNs, standing by and ready to work.

Pro Tip: Improve your response to emergencies with crisis nurse staffing solutions.

#4: Fast Implementation

Hiring a nurse takes work and time — both of which can be in short supply during a surge or crisis. And sourcing, interviewing, vetting and checking backgrounds shouldn’t be rushed.

Travel nursing agencies let employers skip these steps. They deliver not just fast access to skilled RNs but also the peace of mind of knowing that they’re subject to the same high hiring standards as their core staff. They also arrive trained, motivated, skilled in adapting to new situations, and ready to get to work without significant orientation.

#5: Filling Specialized or High-Skill Roles

Travel nursing also provides a reliable source of specialists who many not be locally available — or easy to find nationally, either. And that includes hospital staffing in common traveler departments like med/surg, ICU, ER, and pediatrics to more specialized experience in the NICU or interventional radiology.

From a tough-to-fill position to the rollout of a new role, hiring travel nurses can help hospitals and employers meet patient demand until the necessary long-term solution is put into place.

#6: Expanding a Nursing Team’s Skills

Even when they’re at the same career level as staff nurses, travel RNs still expand a team’s skill and experience. Thanks to time spent working in a variety of different settings, they can offer a diverse range of specific talents and expertise. In the process, they help solve challenges, improve old processes, and implement updated technology, to name just a few.

#7: Adding Service Lines or Carrying Out Special Projects

Travelers also offer an extra resource to take on additional challenges or operational needs. From opening a new wing to expanding services lines, from implementing a new technology to changing charting systems, travelers can help employers maintain quality of care during times of operational change.

#8: Controlling Workforce Costs

It’s often pointed out that travelers earn more than regular staff nurses. Yes, travel nurses command strong salaries, as our recent post-Covid survey of nurse salaries revealed. But that pay delivers nurses with specialized skills, a high level of flexibility, and instant availability. Travelers also come without a long-term financial commitment, and will go places other RNs might not want to work.

Hiring travel nurses can also offset other major costs for hospitals and other facilities. For instance, they can help employers cut down on overtime. Travelers also reduce the expense of sourcing and hiring skilled workers — a major cost for hospitals, especially. In addition, reliable travel nurse agencies pay for benefits, time off, bonuses, and other financial remuneration, taking that obligation off the table for employers.  

#9: Reducing Turnover

Another way the use of travelers helps to offset its own cost is helping reduce turnover among core staff. Estimates show that hospitals spend millions replacing nurses each year, including the cost of postponed services. The price tag can climb into the tens of thousands for other facilities, too — and all while threatening the quality of care for patients and residents.

#10: Reducing Burnout & Boosting Morale

Finally, when answering the question of why do hospitals hire travel nurses, it’s important to note that travelers can improve workplace culture, curb burnout and boost morale.

Travel nursing delivers the backup needed to give core staff much-deserved vacation — or the freedom to go on maternity leave or another necessary absence without undue stress or worry. Instead of requiring them to work overtime or help another department, it’s an option. Travelers also enable employers to offer more flexible overall scheduling, furthering its positive cultural impact.

Why Do Hospitals Hire Travel Nurses? Discover the Benefits with CareerStaff

Ultimately, when answering the question of why do hospitals hire travel nurses, it’s important to note that travelers are increasingly not occasional add-on but a core resource. And partnering with a reliable travel nursing agency ensures a consistent supply of these valuable workers.

Whether your organization is looking to improve or expand its travel nursing options, or simply seeking some info on ways to optimize your workforce, CareerStaff is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how our Joint Commission-Certified solutions can help you meet your workforce needs. Or, take a minute to request staff now.