Travel Nurses are Suddenly Making Wall Street Caliber Money

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If anyone deserves a raise this year, it’s nurses. Already overworked and underpaid pre-Covid, many are finding a new avenue to honest pay: hitting the road.

A mammoth spike in demand for travel nurses — those who float between hospitals on short-term contracts — has sent wages for the role sky high. Bloomberg reported Tuesday that surging labor demand is helping some travel nurses rake in the equivalent of over $400,000 a year.

In Sickness and In Wealth

There are 30,000 open jobs for travel nurses in the U.S., according to health care staffing firm SimpliFi, an increase of 30% from last year. Before the pandemic, travel nurses made up 3% to 4% of overall nursing staff, but their representation is now in the range of 8% to 10%.

The pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals and the subsequent scheduling backlog has left them racing to catch up on thousands of procedures. Travel nurses are stepping in to address these challenges, and making major bucks in the process:

  • Billing rates for travel nurses have gone up 40% in the last 12 months, with emergency-room specialists seeing a 60% hike. Some positions have advertised salaries as high as $8,000 per week.
  • Emergency rooms in particular are powering demand. Six months ago, they accounted for 5% of travel nurse recruitment, but now that figure is 15%.

Golden Ticket: Medical staffing firms haven’t been short for work either. At AMN Healthcare Services, the biggest such firm in America, second-quarter revenue jumped 44% year-over-year to $857 million. And AMN’s nurse bookings doubled from June to July.

Getting In On The Gold Rush: On Monday, Centerbridge Partners and the public pension manager of the Canadian province of Quebec together agreed to buy Medical Solutions, a major healthcare staffing firm that places travel nurses, for $2.3 billion from TPG. Just four years ago, TPG purchased the company for $500 million.