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Which Travel Nursing Jobs Are in Demand?

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for travel nurses in almost every specialty skyrocketed because of extended surges in patient needs. Travel nurses easily stepped in to help staff nurses at facilities of all sizes and types deal with patients suffering from coronavirus, as well as in critical areas such as maternity wards, emergency rooms, and operating rooms.

While the demand for most nursing specialties has normalized post-pandemic, travel nursing still holds tremendous growth opportunities. In fact, a report released by McKinsey in 2022 warned that the impending nursing shortage would be dire by 2025, due to a projected shortage of between 200,000 to 450,000 nurses.

Travel nurses are expected to be key players in helping healthcare facilities make up for these shortages, but as with any profession, there can be times when certain specialties are in higher demand.

Why Are Travel Nurses Needed?

Traveling nurses fill an important niche in healthcare by offering a flexible, readily available staffing solution that can provide relief on a moment’s notice. While some travel nurses are requested by facilities months in advance (i.e., when staff have prescheduled training on new EMR or EHR systems or during scheduled vacations), they’re mainly a go-to resource in times of high need. 

For example, between July and October (based on historical data), hospitals experience more births than any other time of the year, hence facilities needing additional staff in their maternity and pediatrics wards. There are also higher needs during flu season and in the winter months.

Additionally, an aging population of Baby Boomers will lead to a higher need for staff to accommodate a rise in hospital admissions due to falls, chronic illnesses, and other ailments associated with aging. 

Where Travel Nursing Demand Is Highest 

Travel nurses are often sought out by hospitals and specialty clinics, but there’s also high demand for their services in a variety of locations, particularly when unforeseen events like COVID-19 create additional needs.

Rural Areas

Rural healthcare facilities frequently struggle with staffing shortages, making them prime locations for travel nursing assignments. Nurses who work in these critical access and community hospitals play a vital role in ensuring access to healthcare for underserved populations.

Disaster Response

Travel nurses are often called upon to assist during natural disasters or public health emergencies. Their ability to quickly deploy to affected areas is crucial in these situations.

Specialized Units

Facilities with specialized units, such as pediatric intensive care (PICU) or neonatal intensive care (NICU) may have a continuous need for travel nurses with expertise in these areas.

Long-Term Care Facilities

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities frequently utilize travel nurses to provide temporary support. These placements often involve caring for elderly patients with complex medical needs.

Rehabilitation Centers

Travel nurses play a critical role in helping patients recover from injuries and surgeries at rehab centers. They work closely with physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to facilitate the recovery process.

Home Health Care

Some travel nurses work in home health care settings, visiting patients in their homes to provide nursing care. This option allows for more personalized patient interactions.

Correctional Facilities

Travel nurses are needed in correctional facilities to provide healthcare services to inmates. This setting presents unique challenges and opportunities for nurses interested in settings where patients are incarcerated.

Schools & Camps

Travel nurses may be assigned to schools and summer camps, ensuring the health and safety of students and campers. These roles are particularly in demand during the school year and summer months.

Travel Nurse Specialties in Demand Now

Critical Care/ICU Nursing

ICU nurses have consistently been in high demand, especially in urban areas and during times of emergency—like the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical care nurses are needed to care for seriously ill patients in intensive care units, but are a versatile nursing specialty that can assist in many units of a facility.

  • Pay Rates: Critical care nurses make an average annual salary of $83,300 as staff nurses. The rate for travel nurses can be much higher during times of high need, depending on location, with some nurses earning well over $100,000 per year.
  • High-Demand States: While workforce trends can change, the current highest demand for critical care nurses is in Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, Nevada, and North Dakota.

Emergency Room (ER) Nursing

ER nurses are essential personnel, providing immediate care to patients in emergency situations. They’re critical for identifying medical issues, determining severity, and providing immediate support to minimize negative long-term effects. ER nurses are essentially first responders when a patient is admitted to the emergency room, thus demand for ER nurses is typically steady year-round. 

  • Pay Rates: The pay for emergency room nurses varies from state to state and city to city. For example, an ER nurse in Brooklyn, NY can take home an annual salary of $199,646, while an ER nurse in Denver, CO may earn somewhere closer to $139,677 a year. 
  • Highest-Demand States: Currently, ER nurses will find a variety of jobs to choose from in high-demand states such as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.

Medical-Surgical Nursing

Med surg nurses handle a wide range of patients who are about to go into surgery. They’re often in demand due to the versatility of their skills. Their primary responsibility is to look after patients with serious medical conditions, as well as those who are recovering from medical procedures. In addition, they help to explain surgical procedures to patients who are about to go into surgery, so it’s necessary to have strong technical skills and the ability to think critically in a fast-paced, challenging environment.

  • Pay Rates: The average pay rate for a med surg nurse is $2,381 a week, or about $58 an hour. Keep in mind that these rates can fluctuate based on location and facility type.
  • High Demand States: Travel nurses looking for work as med surg nurses can typically choose positions in most states, as their specialty is in high demand everywhere. Currently, med surg nurses will find the most opportunities in Arizona, Washington, New Mexico, Texas, California, and Hawaii.

Telemetry Nursing

Telemetry nurses monitor patients' vital signs and cardiac rhythms, making them crucial for cardiac care units. They record vital signs of all kinds, including oxygen levels, blood pressure, breathing patterns, etc., and document all data in patient records. In addition to these duties, telemetry nurses often give patients advice on how to deal with cardiac problems, including dietary recommendations or how to create an exercise program that’s in line with improving their cardiac health. Demand for telemetry nurses tends to be consistent, and this nursing specialty is a high-needs nursing profession.

  • Pay Rates: Telemetry nurses make an average of $60 an hour (or about $2,386 a week), with some making as much as $86 an hour. Pay rates will vary between facilities and locations. 
  • High-Demand States: Telemetry nurses will find the most job opportunities in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Michigan, and Ohio, but Alaska is also a high-need state.

Labor & Delivery Nursing

L&D nurses are needed to assist with childbirth and maternal care. They help mothers during the final stages of pregnancy, assisting with the birthing process, monitoring the mother's vital signs, and becoming astute on the signs and symptoms of possible complications. In addition, they’re involved in patient education and assist with the psychosocial needs of the mother as they make their journey into motherhood. The demand for L&D nurses can fluctuate during certain times of the year, but the profession remains relatively stable, with spurts of job openings in the spring and summer months. 

  • Pay Rates: Labor and delivery nurses make an average of $46 an hour, but that rate can soar to over $100 an hour during months where L&D staff are in high demand. 
  • High-Demand States: Labor and delivery nurses will find lots of opportunities in South Dakota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Montana. Although, when demand for L&D nurses skyrockets during high birth months, it’s easy to find opportunities across the country. 

Operating Room (OR) Nursing

OR nurses assist with surgical procedures and can be found in a variety of facilities, including hospitals, surgery centers, and across the spectrum of healthcare. Their primary duties include keeping patients safe during surgical procedures (before, during, and after). They’re also responsible for making sure that operating suites are clean and sterile, and that all operating instruments, such as scalpels and other instructions are ready for use by attending surgeons. Keep in mind that OR nurses experience high-stress environments and can sometimes be tasked with providing care during chaotic emergency situations. 

  • Pay Rates: Typically, OR nurses make an average of $48 an hour , with high-end estimates exceeding $100 an hour. Though, pay can vary by the facility and location. 
  • High-Demand States: OR nurses are needed in all 50 states, but there are states that require additional support in this nursing specialty. High-need states include Florida, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Home Health Nursing

Home health nurses provide care to patients in their homes. Their primary duties include performing basic tests, monitoring vitals, dressing care for wounds or injuries, and administrating other treatments. In addition, they document changes in eating habits or behavior and report any findings back to primary care providers. Nurses who choose a career as a home health nurse must be comfortable working in different spaces, as they must be able to quickly adapt to patient spaces outside of traditional healthcare facilities. 

  • Pay Rates: Salary rates for home health RNs average around $49 an hour, but rates of $75 an hour can be found if the clinician has significant on-the-job experience and the right credentials. 
  • High-Demand States: While home health is gaining ground across the country, current high-needs states include New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Michigan, and Alaska. 

How to Prepare for Travel Nursing Demand

While there can be ebbs and flows in demand for some nursing specialties, there are ways you can be prepared to take on new travel nursing job opportunities when the time comes.

Be Flexible

Being open to assignments in different locations and with different types of healthcare facilities can increase your chances of finding consistent travel nursing work and better pay. This might mean being willing to work in rural areas, community hospitals, or even correctional facilities.

Gain Experience

Strengthening your resume with experience in your chosen specialty is crucial. Travel agencies often prefer to recruit nurses with a few years of experience, as they tend to be more adaptable and comfortable in different healthcare settings.

Try Networking

Building relationships with travel nursing agencies can help you access a broader range of travel healthcare assignments. Staying in touch with recruiters and being proactive in seeking opportunities can lead to more consistent employment as a travel nurse.

Continue Education

Stay up to date with the latest advancements and trends in your nursing specialty through continuing education units (CEUs). This can make you a more attractive candidate for travel nursing assignments.

Obtain Licensing

Being licensed as a nurse in multiple states can expand your job prospects. The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows nurses to work in multiple compact states with one license, making it easier to take assignments in different regions.

Monitor Trends

Consider travel nursing for seasonal opportunities when demand is heightened. Flu season, for example, often requires additional personnel in locations across the country. Increased patient loads and the need for personnel to help support other departments can offer new opportunities for travel nurses in many specialties. 

Start Your Travel Nursing Career

As a healthcare staffing agency with over 25 years in the travel nursing industry, TRS Healthcare can help you customize your travel nursing journey. Work with one of our recruiters today, and we’ll help you find a high-demand travel assignment that fits your nursing specialty experience and your career goals.

Interested in a travel nursing career with TRS Healthcare? Search our current jobs or apply with us now!