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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.