Travel Nursing Costs: Myth vs. Reality

April 13, 2016


Dan Beller

Finding the best, most capable staff possible is at the top of the list for most hospital managers and executives. Also important? Cost. Budgets matter, and as you explore nurse staffing options, you’ll likely run into inflated estimates and myths related to travel nursing expenses. But just like that rumor you heard about Justin Bieber, there’s more to the story. Here’s a roundup of travel nursing myths vs. reality.

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Myth: From a business standpoint, using travel nurses is unwise.

Reality: The fact is, when used strategically, temporary nurses can actually save money: A recent study in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality shows that in the right scenarios, using temporary nurses is a smart move. The study found that while the hourly rate for supplemental nurses might be higher than for permanent nurses, using travel nurses to handle temporary spikes in patient volume or to cover short-term shortages in permanent nurses is cost-effective.


The study notes that over-reliance on temporary staff can add up, but you might have already guessed that. But when you consider aspects like benefit expenses that come with permanent employees, turning to travel nursing options often makes sense for temporary and interim scenarios.


Myth: It’s better to rely on overtime from your current staff than to go with temporary nurses.


Reality: The same study noted above also revealed that travel nurse costs are virtually identical to overtime costs for permanent staff. And along with the dollars and cents comparison for overtime, there’s also a very human consideration for managers: burnout. You might be able to cover shifts by stretching your current staff, but it may not yield the best results. Across professions, productivity and accuracy dip when employees spend too much time at work, and nurses are no exception. Excess overtime can lead to a slew of negative consequences, including burnout and patient dissatisfaction.


Myth: All staffing options cost the same.

Reality: If you do opt to use temp staff, the agency you choose will absolutely affect costs. Be sure to dig into the paperwork so you understand the total price of the assignment. Some staffing agencies will tempt hospitals with low initial pricing, but when you read the fine print, you’ll uncover hidden costs and additional fees you weren’t expecting. The best agencies will be transparent about pricing and answer any questions you have openly.


You’ll also want to understand how a vendor can ensure they’ll successfully meet your travel nursing needs. Are you confident they’ll have nurses available when you need them? Make sure their capabilities align with your organization’s needs and staffing plan. If they don’t, you might be left scrambling to find another option at the last minute, and that sort of thing can drive costs up.


At Fusion Medical, we understand that staffing needs have changed. From long-term assignments to short-terms positions, we have top professionals ready to make a difference in your facility. And we don’t have hidden fees. Contact us for estimates and an open discussion of what you need and how we can help.

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