Coping With Market Fluctuations in the Travel Nurse Industry

Confident doctor interviews nurse

Note: Guest contributor Claudia Robinson wrote this post. Learn more about Claudia at the bottom of this article.

If you’ve worked as a travel nurse or you’re considering a travel career, finding the right job that fits your skills, specialty, preference of location, and compensation requirements can be difficult – even with the best and most skilled recruiters! There are thousands of jobs nationwide, but you might find matching your needs with the hospitals’ needs more challenging in 2023.

Hospital climate

Most travel assignments are located within the hospital/short-term acute setting. We know as nurses that hospitals experience census fluctuations, which can affect us by requiring overtime when it’s busy or shortening and canceling shifts when there is no longer a need. The hospital’s needs may be influenced by a tough business climate, staffing changes, and even government legislation and funding. 

Turnover in the healthcare industry is at an all-time high due to shifts in job demands, burnout, and employee concerns, and more nurses are looking outside of traditional roles.

Are my choices more limited right now as a travel nurse?

Within the healthcare travel industry, the job orders your recruiter has available to offer you directly reflect what hospitals are experiencing. During the pandemic, it was all hands on deck – nurses and healthcare providers were testing and using their skills and talents in creative ways to take care of their patients. As we move through a different stage of healthcare, those creative talents will continue to evolve, and the need to adapt will be even greater.

Currently, we’re seeing that more than half of all available travel assignments lie within the specialties of medical/surgical, telemetry, and progressive care areas, with the remaining specialties encompassing fewer open positions. To be clear, there are job openings in every specialty, but some specialties have limited openings, and they are filled quickly.

What can I do to help my recruiter find me a good job?

Be FLEXIBLE! Flexibility is the capacity to adapt to short-term change. How can you be flexible in your job search and successful in your career?

  • Have an open mind when looking at opportunities. If the job doesn’t seem to fit at first, try looking at it from a different perspective. Maybe it’s not your ideal location. Ask yourself, “What could you gain from being there for three months in terms of personal and professional growth?” Research the area and the hospital, and you could be surprised. For example, many rural areas have revitalization projects bringing new life to small towns.
  • Think about your skillset and specialty as a nurse. Use your experience as a guide and have your recruiter assess all viable options and specialties for which you are qualified. Almost all travel positions require floating – look at float positions specifically – critical, non-critical, women’s center, etc., versus unit assignments.
  • Use your support network! Talk with your agency and know the resources available to you. You should have a clinical team in addition to your recruiter, HR representative, and other departments you can contact to seek out support. Reach out to other travelers and professional friends, and know all of your resources to make any job you take more successful. As always, build trust and rapport with your recruiter – know them and stay in touch!

Finally, be confident and optimistic and remember your long-term goals. The travel industry continues to grow and evolve within the healthcare environment. Your ability to be successful in all of your personal and professional goals will benefit from your ability to be flexible. 

As someone, somewhere, once jokingly said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape!” I think there’s some truth to that statement.

About Claudia Robinson, BSN, MS, RN

Photo of Claudia Robinson, a nurse

I’ve been working in hospitals all of my life. I began in 1981 as a nutritionist, and after completing my BSN and master’s degree, working as an RN since 1996. I love the hospital environment and have been fortunate to be able to work with some wonderful nurses and professionals throughout my career, making many lifelong friendships.

For the last 20 years, my area of specialty has been within the hospital management systems, including serving in the capacity of Sr. Director of Nursing in the travel nurse industry since 2011. In 2022, I received the DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award in Nursing, which was my most cherished recognition during my tenure as a nurse.

I’m currently semi-retired, contributing, when possible, to the continued success and wellness of nurses. I enjoy talking with nurses about their careers and aspirations and their focus on service. My family continues to bring me joy each day, and my joy is enhanced by my ability to frequently read, sketch, and paint more and take part in whatever life brings my way!

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