Will travel nurse pay decrease in the new year? Will allied health travel pay packages increase? How are healthcare employment trends affecting the healthcare travel industry?
If you’ve asked any of these questions in the past few months, you’re not alone. Travel nurses and allied health travelers across the country have been feeling the effects of a turbulent healthcare market and the changes it’s bringing. Here’s what you can expect in the healthcare staffing industry, and how to prepare for them in 2024.
- Travel nurse pay breakdown
- Then vs now: average travel nurse salary
- Tips for travel nurses and allied health professionals adjusting to market changes
- ✨BONUS ✨ Frequently asked questions
Travel Nurse Pay Projections 2024 + Other Healthcare Market Changes
Travel nurse pay breakdown
The rumors are true: you can make more money as a travel nurse or allied health traveler! How much you make exactly depends on your level and field of expertise, the location you want to work in, the healthcare staffing agency you work with, and the hospital or healthcare facility you work in.
But there’s more to travel nurse pay than that. Made up of an hourly wage, housing stipend, and travel reimbursements, travel nurse salaries go beyond a weekly paycheck. Let’s break it down.
Travel nurses have a unique compensation structure and part of that is your hourly wage. This portion of your pay package encompasses a bill rate (aka what allied health and travel nursing agencies can charge a hospital for your services) and a pay rate, also known as what you’re going to pocket per hour.
The specific amount you can receive as your hourly wage depends on your geographical location, nursing specialty, shift type, and the urgency of the assignment.
Another component of your travel nurse pay package is an optional tax-free housing stipend. This stipend is designed to cover the cost of temporary accommodation when you travel to different locations for your assignments.
This perk depends on the staffing agency you work with, so housing options may look different across the board. At Fusion Medical Staffing, you’re given the choice between receiving a housing stipend to find your own temporary living space or relying on our superstar in-house housing team to find accommodations on your behalf.
In addition to your hourly wage and housing stipend, as a travel nurse or allied health professional, you’re also entitled to reimbursement for select travel expenses. These can include mileage incurred while traveling to and from assignments, as well as continuing education unit (CEU) and state licensing fees. Find out more about the costs covered and reimbursed by your allied health or travel nursing agency.
Other aspects of travel nurse pay
Crisis pay for travel nurses is a wage structure that kicks in during periods of high demand for healthcare services. This could be due to seasonal spikes, unforeseen circumstances, or significant events like a global pandemic.
Here’s how it works: when there’s a crisis, hospitals need more hands on deck, and they’re often willing to pay a premium to get the help they need. So, travel nurses and allied health professionals willing and able to step in during these peak times can expect to earn even more than the average travel nurse salary.
Since you may find yourself working during the holidays, you could also find a higher dollar amount on your paychecks. That’s because holiday pay rates are usually higher than your standard rate, giving you even more buck for your bang. The way holiday pay works for travel nurses and allied health travelers will depend on the healthcare staffing agency you work with.
Spoiler alert: when you travel with us and work a holiday assignment, you can expect to receive time-and-a-half of your hourly wage for any time worked on recognized holidays.
Then vs now: average travel nurse salaries
So, what’s changed with allied health and travel nurse pay over the past few years? While it’s true healthcare jobs are still on the rise, the funds for these positions are no longer rising with the demand. Since federal and state coronavirus (COVID) relief funding has ceased, healthcare travel contracts that were once abundant and lucrative are diminishing.
“I think over the next two years, we’re going to see the industry level out a little more and follow the more traditional pattern of peaks and valleys of contingent labor,” said Fusion Medical Staffing’s Chief Clinical Officer Amber Barna, MSN, RN. “It’s been a stressful three years for everyone, and I think that we’re going to see over the next couple years where we as healthcare partners can enhance our impact.”
Despite the dip in allied health and travel nurse rates in recent years, healthcare travelers can still earn more than permanent healthcare staff. With one-of-a-kind compensation packages that include housing stipends and travel reimbursements, choosing an allied health travel or travel nursing career can still lead to financial stability and security.
Tips for travel nurses and allied health professionals adjusting to market changes
This change in the market is undeniably jarring, but it’s nothing a shift in perspective and expectations can’t remedy. Use these tips to help keep you grounded.
Be flexible and set new expectations
The best thing you can do as a traveler right now is to be flexible and open-minded. There aren’t going to be as many high-paying jobs as before, so it’s crucial to be open to different contracts and locations.
“When it comes to where you’re looking to go, being flexible will open the doors to be able to go see and experience so many different things you wouldn’t have thought about before,” said Kayla Kelley, senior nursing recruiter at Fusion Medical Staffing. “It really can surprise you! You never know where you’re going to find your next home.”
If you have certain requirements, you may have to wait a little longer for an opportunity that fits your needs to become available. For some travelers, it may be worth it to use this time to take a relaxing break and reevaluate your traveling priorities and what traveling will look like for you going forward. Luckily, there’s no need to panic because there are still travel opportunities available for you.
"We are seeing both fewer travel nurses being used with the hospital because supply and demand rates are coming down but travel nursing will still be a significant part of the overall picture for a while,” said Brian Tabor from the Indiana Hospital Association. “Right now, we have about 3x the openings for nurses that we had before the pandemic but just a few months ago it was 8x the openings.”
Additionally, specialties that may have been harder to find travel positions for due to cuts to elective procedures during COVID may be more in demand now, and it’s a great time to take another look at what’s available. Overall, there are still more opportunities in healthcare travel than there was pre-COVID, and travel nurse wages are still higher than they were pre-COVID, pay for travel nurses just isn't as high as it was during crisis surges. This isn’t to say travel nurse salaries won’t increase in the future, but the reality is that they’re not going to be what they were before anytime soon.
Remember the other reasons you travel too: the flexibility, the opportunity to see new places, gain experience in new fields and settings. Healthcare travel offers high reward because it requires high risk and fluidity from travelers. Although the changes in the market can be stressful at times, know that you have support behind you at Fusion Medical Staffing.
Create a budget (and stick to it)
If you’re currently in a higher-paying contract, now is a good time to start saving a little extra where you can from your paycheck. It’s also crucial that going forward you create an allied health or travel nurse budget that accounts for a slight rate decrease.
To create a budget, start by estimating your monthly income and list all your predictable expenses. Be sure to incorporate a savings category in your budget to build a financial cushion for periods with decreased pay. This will help you lessen the stress before you start a new contract of whether you can afford your lifestyle and bills.
Travel with Fusion Medical Staffing
In times where a lot is unknown, Fusion Medical Staffing is here to give you back control of your career. Travel with us and gain insight into the healthcare market by browsing jobs with transparent pay rates. When you search for travel assignments through Fusion Medical Staffing, you’ll see the pay range listed front and center on the job posting so you can know what to expect before you even sign a job offer.
“After a ton of research on other agencies and talking with other recruiters, I landed at Fusion Medical Staffing, and haven’t looked back,” said Fusion Medical Staffing travel nurse Megan, RN. “The pay packages are competitive with plenty of jobs to pick from, the benefits are excellent, and most importantly, they genuinely have your back.”
We’re committed to being the best we can be for you, and that means we don’t gatekeep important information like allied health and travel nurse salary. Knowing this, you can confidently make informed decisions about your assignments and rest assured you’re in good hands with us.
Frequently asked questions
How can I increase my pay as a travel nurse?
One of the best ways to increase your pay as a travel nurse or allied health traveler is by obtaining specialized skills or certifications in your field, like critical care registered nurse (CCRN) or certified pediatric nurse (CPN). The more credentials you have on your resume, the higher the pay you can negotiate.
What are the highest paying nursing specialties in 2024?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for registered nurses is $81,220 per year. However, depending on your nursing specialty, you could earn even more! Some of the highest paying nursing specialties include telemetry, labor and delivery, intensive care, emergency room, and medical-surgical.
Interested in other high-paying healthcare travel careers? We have what you’re looking for!
Is travel nursing still worth it?
With a decrease in allied health and travel nursing pay, you may be asking yourself if this career path is still worth it. If you ask us, the answer will always be:
Of course, it’s up to you to decide for yourself — is it still worth it? Allied health travel and travel nursing gives you the chance to combine your love for adventure and your passion for healthcare. With the opportunity to work in diverse healthcare settings across locations, you’re able to gain exposure to a wide range of medical practices and patient populations. This not only enriches your breadth of experience but also enhances your adaptability and problem-solving skills.
Plus, as we’ve learned, the financial benefits of travel nursing are notable, even if they’re not what they were a few years ago. Add higher wages to the perks bucket, alongside the ability to explore new cities, cultures, and landscapes, and more!
The truth is you may not see allied health and travel nursing rates return to what they were maybe ever again. It’s totally valid if this shift in the market is making you feel like your career is a little out of your hands. Stay patient, stay positive, and travel with us at Fusion Medical Staffing to get back into the driver’s seat of your career.