In the past months, many hospitals and other health care providers have noted the steep rise in the cost of hiring nurses. Many providers saw double digit year-on-year growth of nurse wages. For instance, some health systems in Louisiana saw a 16% rise in labor costs between 2021 and 2020. In large part, much of the additional cost was due to the rise of traveling nurses.
In recent months, however, demand for nurses – especially travel nurses – has fallen dramatically. Kaiser Health News reports that:
Nationally, demand for registered nurse travelers dropped by a third in the month leading up to April 10, according to data from staffing agency Aya Healthcare, although openings have rebounded slightly in recent weeks.
Consider the case from one health system in Oregon.
When Oregon’s governor declared the pandemic emergency over April 1, state-level covid relief money evaporated. Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland lost funding for close to 100 travel nurses. That, along with lower covid rates and more full-time hires, has led to “a bursting of the bubble,” said Dr. John Hunter, CEO of OHSU Health.
The health system had about 50 contractors of all kinds before the pandemic, compared with 450 at its height, when patients, many in need of close monitoring, flooded in and turned the hospital’s recovery room into an intensive care unit.
“It has been very expensive,” Hunter said. But things are turning around, he said, and in recent weeks the hospital has negotiated contract rates with its travel nurse agency down as much as 50%.
One can see the trend in US travel nurse demand from the graph below: