Need for travel nurses declining nationally and in Idaho


Amid the surge of COVID cases, there were over 47,000 open positions in September of 2021, but that number has now dropped to only 14,000 available positions.

BOISE, Idaho — For months during the pandemic, Idaho hospitals put a call out for more nurses to help their overwhelmed and overworked staff as COVID cases reached unmanageable levels. In recent months, cases are down and most hospitals are back to normal operations, for now.

With a decrease in cases came a decreased demand for extra health care workers, which also affected the need for travel nurses, many of which were coming up on the end of their contracts.

For the travel nurses that do get a renewal offer, it’s often at a lower rate than what they were paid previously. According to St. Luke’s, rates for traveling nurses are based on skill set, supply and demand, and geography. The health system told KTVB that current pay rates have come down 45 percent from where they were at the peak of the surge. 

According to data from Aya Healthcare, one of the top traveling nursing agencies in the country, the demand for travel nurses in the U.S has plummeted.

Amid the surge of COVID cases, there were over 47,000 open positions in September of 2021, but that number has dropped to only 14,000 available positions as of this April.

According to Clint Child, Chief Nursing Officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System, the demand for travel nurses is going down locally as well.

“It’s a swayback from what was really a crisis in health care to getting things a little bit more under control,” Child said.

Throughout the pandemic, Child said the health system brought on upwards of 250 travel nurses to keep up with the demand for care.

“When the need exceeds the resources, that’s when we are forced to look towards these temporary contracts,” Child said.

But now many contracts are expiring, and not always being renewed.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a layoff, we end when their contracts end. We extend or we don’t, so we have been able to not extend contracts and even renegotiate with their agencies, some rates that they either accept or they don’t,” Child said. “The nurses make wages that are attractive and make more than the bedside nurses because it’s not a permanent position and there is no benefits and things like that.”

According to Child, Saint Alphonsus aims to offer most travel nurses the option of moving to a full-time position in the hospital. He said they have still not fully recovered from the staffing shortage caused by the pandemic. 

While some are interested in committing to full-time work in the Treasure Valley, not all travel nurses are.

The average travel nurse’s salary is around $156,000 a year. The average salary for a full-time registered nurse in Idaho is around $73,000.

“A lot of them have extended because they love the area, the working environment, but not all of them have taken on positions with us,” Child said. “Many of them want to move forward and do their travel positions and so when they travel need dries up locally, they move on.”

Regardless of the reason behind travel nurses staying or going, Child said he is focused on local employment and long-term staffing.

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