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Travel Healthcare Outlook - May 2020

Updated: May 21, 2020

Back in March, I wrote a blog forecasting what my company and I felt the effect COVID-19 would have on the travel healthcare job market. I think it is safe to say we did not fully anticipate what would happen in the following months. But, all is not lost.

We are living in uncertain times, but hopefully this will provide insight to the still bright future of travel healthcare.

As anticipated, the industry has taken a dip. What was unforeseen was the size of the dip. For example, because of restrictions on elective surgeries the need for Physical Therapists deteriorated. As a result, travel assignments were cancelled, full time staff members were laid off, etc. To illustrate what has taken place: previously there were hundreds of Physical Therapist jobs any given day and now it’s closer to ten on a daily basis. Nursing, laboratory, and other professions have seen similar dips in certain specialties.

During the last couple of months, the need ER/ICU Nurses and Respiratory Therapists increased exponentially with the expectation that there would be many patients in ICUs on ventilators across the country. That created hundreds of positions with “crisis rates.” There was a mad dash to get these positions because of the pay. As the curve has flattened, those jobs have gone away. It’s important to note those rates were not typical and will not come up unless there is either another crisis, a strike, or maybe an EMR conversion. So, if you want to travel, be realistic with pay expectations going forward.

Currently, restrictions on elective surgeries have been lifted some states. However, the travel healthcare market has not fully bounced back. Some project that jobs, particularly in rehab therapy professions, won’t be plentiful until next year as they will likely fill needs with full time employees first. That said, travel jobs that are actually available are generally seeing 30+ submissions.

As tough as things are at this point, it’s important to know that the travel healthcare industry will rebound. The demand for healthcare workers will continue to be high in the near future. As restrictions continue to be lifted and the economy rebounds, hospitals/facilities will again welcome travelers.

So, what should you do to prepare in the meantime?

Obviously, you need to decide what is best for you. First, it's smart to evaluate if travel is best for you at this point. Even if you do want to travel, try to land a per diem or full-time job to keep your skills up to be attractive for future jobs and to keep income flowing.

You should also evaluate how flexible you can be in terms of setting and location. Things will be competitive as jobs continue to rebound since there are hundreds or thousands of out of work travelers ready to go immediately. To be successful in landing jobs back-to back, you need to be willing and able to work in different states. That also requires you to go out and get licenses in different states. Feel free to ask me what states you should consider.

Lastly, be sure to save up money before traveling if you can. With the current amount of instability, you will not know if there will be gaps in between assignments. You want to be sure you are not in any financial strain because of it.

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