Rural Healthcare Travel Pay Breakdown

July 21, 2022


Fusion Medical Staffing

Rural Pay BreakdownThere’s a high demand for healthcare travelers in rural healthcare, and while you may already be aware of some of the benefits of taking a rural assignment, you may not know the travel pay breakdown for rural contracts. Keep reading to find what kind of pay you can expect in rural healthcare and why it’s so advantageous to take these assignments right now.


Rural Healthcare Travel Pay Breakdown


Why work in rural healthcare?

From filling the staffing shortage in rural hospitals to gaining more experience as a healthcare traveler, there are many reasons to take an assignment in rural healthcare. No two days are the same for rural healthcare travelers, and since rural hospitals are typically more generalized, the diversity and variety of health services you’d be responsible for offer unlimited opportunities to learn and grow as a healthcare professional.

Related: Urban vs Rural Healthcare Traveler Jobs: What's Right for You?

Small communities shouldn’t be underestimated either with offerings of outdoor adventure, new culture and small-town traditions, and the overall reward of being a medical lifeline in these rural and remote communities.

Additionally, rural health care assignments are generally less competitive, and in today’s oversaturated healthcare market, you’ll have a greater chance of landing the assignment you want if you focus your efforts on rural populations. Here are more reasons to work in rural healthcare. 

Lack of access to healthcare in rural areas

The nursing shortage is affecting rural communities the most, with 61.47% of Primary Care Health Care Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) regarded as rural. As a result, rural residents are experiencing a lack of access to healthcare in rural health clinics and patient care is struggling in hospitals where staffing levels are low. This issue has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID) pandemic with a 2021 survey of 130 rural hospital leaders finding nearly all respondents were having trouble filling nursing positions. 

"When we talk to rural hospital leaders, nine times out of 10, their number one concern is staffing," said Michael Topchik, national leader for the Chartis Center for Rural Health. "It is really tough to get nurses in rural America."

One rural health issue that is particularly devastated by the provider shortage is mental health services. Rural communities often lack sufficient mental health providers, creating a significant barrier to getting timely and quality care. This shortage is worsened by factors such as distance, lack of transportation, and inadequate health insurance coverage.

Healthcare travelers are helping to reduce the staffing shortage in rural hospitals, which in turn, increases patient access to healthcare services in rural areas as well as improves the level of quality patient care in these locations. Taking a rural assignment is personally rewarding in many ways, but ultimately by helping meet the demand in these areas, you’re contributing massively to these small communities.

Monetary benefits of rural healthcare jobs

Spoiler: travel nurse rates are returning closer to pre-pandemic levels, which means the lucrative assignments you may have been used to during COVID are few and far between. However, taking an assignment in rural communities gives you a leg up in the pay department.

While rural pay rates may not be dramatically higher than urban pay rates, there are monetary incentives and perks that make rural opportunities more attractive in some instances. First, you have the element of supply and demand on your side with the extreme need for healthcare providers in these areas, which gives you more negotiation power as a traveler. For the same reason, rural jobs may be offering signing bonuses that other jobs don’t have.

But the biggest potential to make more money as rural healthcare providers comes from the low cost of living in these areas. Even if your pay rate is the same in a rural area as it would be in urban areas, you'll be saving so much more from each paycheck living in rural areas because costs for housing, groceries, and other expenses are typically lower than the national average.

Without the additional costs of living in a big city, you’ll be able to save more of your pay. If you have a financial goal like paying off debt or making a big purchase like a house, taking a rural assignment gives you the opportunity to boost those savings and stretch your travel nurse budget.

Rural areas with the most demand

For ultimate flexibility, consider getting a multi-state license, or compact license, so you can practice in compact states without having to wait to get a state-specific license. That way you can jump into rural health services roles quickly and take advantage of the demand for healthcare workers. To maximize your travel opportunities even more, check out these rural areas where healthcare workers are in high demand:

  • Southern Vermont
  • Southern Nebraska
  • Eastern Ohio
  • Southeast Missouri
  • Southeast Maine
  • Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • Northeast Maine
  • Central New Hampshire
  • Connecticut
  • North Central Tennessee
  • West Central Illinois
  • Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan
  • Southeast Mississippi
  • Southwest Iowa
  • Capital/Northern New York
  • Southern Illinois
  • Northwest Nebraska
  • Southern Ohio
  • West Central-Southwest New Hampshire
  • East Kentucky

Rural healthcare pay by state

In those states with the most opportunities for healthcare travelers, here’s what travel nurse salaries you can expect as well as cost of living, with 100 being the national average. Keep in mind, rates may be higher or lower depending on the city, job, and other factors.

State   Hourly wage     Annual salary   Cost of living
  Starting Average Experienced Starting Average Experienced  
Connecticut $42.75 $59.90 $80.00 $88,930 $124,600 $166,400 127.7
New York $40.94 $63.37 $89.42 $85,150 $131,810 $185,990 139.1
Michigan $39.03 $52.23 $69.24 $81,180 $108,640 $144,020 88.9
New Hampshire $38.94 $53.63 $71.59 $81,000 $111,560 $148,900 109.7
Maine $38.44 $50.15 $66.31 $79,960 $104,320 $137,920 117.%
Nebraska $37.90 $49.05 $63.69 $78,840 $102,030 $132,480 90.8
Ohio $37.68 $49.24 $64.50 $78,370 $102,420 $134,170 90.8
Vermont $37.55 $50.93 $69.46 $78,110 $105,930 $144,470 114.5
Illinois $37.04 $52.64 $72.87 $77,050 $109,490 $151,560 94.5
Iowa $33.13 $44.17 $56.91 $68,910 $91,880 $118,370 90.1
Kentucky $32.45 $45.70 $59.35 $67,490 $95,050 $123,450 90.%
Tennessee $31.51 $45.27 $60.84 $65,550 $94,160 $126,540 88.7
Missouri $31.11 $46.52 $64.87 $64,700 $96,770 $134,920 87.1
Mississippi $30.17 $43.24 $58.07 $62,760 $89,940 $120,790 86.1



Ready to start finding positions for rural providers? Taking an assignment in rural healthcare is a great way to accelerate your travel career. Plus, the opportunity to make more money in rural health care services helps you make the most out of your travel career.