Aya Healthcare experts published in Nurse Leader

March 29, 2022 | Aya Media Buzz , Workforce Solutions

While travel nursing has long been an essential healthcare service, the number of nurses moving to a travel career has increased over the past two years. Aya Healthcare’s own Carol Tuttas, PhD, RN, Clinical Manager, and April Hansen, MSN, RN, Group President of Workforce Solutions, recently published an article exploring the rise in popularity of travel nursing and the resulting shift in the US nurse staffing landscape, while offering suggestions for nurse leaders on how to navigate these changes. Keep reading to view an excerpt of the article and learn more about their findings.

Professional Choice 2020-2021: Travel Nursing Turns the Tide

Travel nursing has long served the healthcare industry as a niche profession born out of the need to supplement the permanent staff workforce. Hospitals typically turn to staffing agencies to help bridge temporary workforce vacancies created by occurrences such as attrition, leaves of absence, seasonal patient volume surges or to undertake special strategic initiatives such as tower expansions, newly opened units and implementation of electronic medical records.

Nurses drawn to travel nursing enter a unique work-life arrangement requiring them to leave their social networks behind and adopt a mobile lifestyle. Typically, only a small cohort of the nursing population chose to work via cycles of employment contracts of up to 13 weeks, repeatedly relocating to a different city or state, and quickly adapting to a new locale and practice environment. According to 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, only about 43,000 of the 2,982,280 registered nurses in the United States were employed as travel RNs. This amounted to less than 2% of the total nursing workforce available to supplement the needs of hospitals with pre-pandemic vacancy rates already averaging 8%-9%.

Over the past two years, in tandem with the overarching COVID-19 pandemic effect, more nurses decided to embark on a travel nursing career path, altering the US nursing resource landscape. Beyond the pay differential, nurses are drawn to the increased flexibility and autonomy offered by the travel lifestyle. For example, travel nurses can schedule breaks between contracts to accommodate quality family time, support self-care, and avoid burnout. From a developmental perspective, travel nurses augment professional and clinical skills to advance in the practice by choosing assignments that offer exposure to different types of facilities, regions, and care environments.

Carol Tuttas shares, “Right now nurses are experiencing an awakening after decades of progressively advancing evidence-based standards with a corresponding rise in practice expectations that outpaced the provision of adequate human and technical resources and working models necessary to sustain them. Like professionals in many other workforce sectors, nurses individually reassessed their values and acted accordingly. As leaders, we must vigilantly monitor the impact of the work environment and intervene timely to keep up with the expectations imposed on the professional nursing workforce by incorporating different approaches and adopting fresh applications of existing approaches.”

Six suggestions for an actionable approach include:

  1. Budget and hire to fill adequate non-RN support roles
  2. Adopt the skill of “teaming”
  3. Enhance collaboration between travel staff and permanent staff
  4. Harness the power of empathy
  5. Consider team nursing models and shorter shift duration
  6. Reach out to re-hirable former RN employees

Understanding the motivating factors that underpin a nurse’s professional decision to pursue travel nursing provides insight to help leaders develop strategies to cultivate practice settings where all nurses (travel and permanent staff) are empowered to work more cohesively with a fulfilling sense of job satisfaction and team pride.

The full version of this article is published in Nurse Leader and is widely available to read at this link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8828254/.

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