Rising Nurse Demand Calls for Travel Nurse Hiring Changes

Healthcare industry analysts once predicted that jobs growth would flatten in 2018 – and that hospital jobs would actually decline. Those projections were based on uncertainty about healthcare policy and on value-based medicine changes that presumably would reduce hospital admissions.

But it didn’t happen. Just the opposite – healthcare employment grew by 346,000 in 2018, including 108,000 hospital jobs. December was the single biggest month in healthcare employment on record.

The reason is that the long-range drivers of healthcare demand are much stronger than the policy debates of recent years. The nation’s aging population is the most powerful driver. In 2016, there were 49 million Americans 65 and older; by 2060, there will be 95 million, according to the US Census Bureau. This population uses healthcare services much more than younger people, and their care is covered by Medicare.

In addition, the overall number of jobs is increasing, and more jobs mean more jobs with healthcare coverage.

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While demand for healthcare services is increasing, the growth in healthcare workers cannot keep up. In particular, the wave of Baby Boomer retirements is fully underway and will continue, resulting in ever greater demand for experienced clinicians to fill those roles.

Demand for nurses is running extremely high, while supply is low, and this super-heated healthcare jobs environment could last for years. It affects the supply of travel nurses as well as staff nurses. Nurse hiring managers may need to change tactics in order to hire the quality travel nurses they need. Three suggestions can lessen their burden:

  • Extend current travelers: At 60 days or more prior to their end date, travel nurses’ assignments can be extended. This has real advantages because extensions don’t require onboarding or training, and nurse managers already know whether the travelers are a good cultural fit.
  • Post orders early: Nurse shortages have created an extremely competitive environment for hiring. Every manager is competing for nurses with their counterparts at other hospitals, ambulatory care centers, and other facilities. Since care quality is the most important criteria when hiring, posting orders early can make the difference in whether healthcare organizations get the quality of nurses they need.
  • Talk to Account Manager: Solving problems is best done one-on-one. Many new and innovative efficiency and time-saving tools are now available that provide opportunities to help fill openings. Talking directly with experts in nurse staffing is always a good idea.

The unfilled jobs gap is widening; there are approximately twice as many healthcare job openings as job hires, according to BLS data. This situation won’t improve any time soon. By following these suggestions, nurse hiring managers will have an easier time hiring quality travel nurses — now and in the future.

Carolina Araya

Carolina Araya
Carolina Araya is the senior vice president of client management for AMN Healthcare.

Carolina Araya

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