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6 Things To Know About The Hot Travel Nursing Job Market

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Quarterly revenues for the biggest healthcare staffing companies, like AMN Healthcare, steadily increased through 2015 and 2016. This is always a strong indication that the travel nursing job market is hot. Of course, this is always great news for travel nurses! However, there are at least 6 things to consider in order to maximize your potential in a hot travel nursing job market.

The Regional Aspects of The Hot Travel Nursing Job Market

In the simplest terms, the job market gets hot because demand for travel nurses spikes. The reasons for a spike are usually open for debate. We won’t go into great detail on the subject here, but the reasons may include the following:

  • An increase in the number of employed people who now have medical benefits again.
  • An increase in the insured population due to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Older nurses working less hours or retiring.
  • A deficit in the number of experienced nurses and hospitals’ lack of desire to train inexperienced nurses in their area.
  • Hospital reluctance to hire permanent staff for fear this is a short-term spike in demand for healthcare.

Regardless of the reasons, there are usually regional aspects to a hot job market. This means that some regions will be cold, some will be warm and others will be very hot. Moreover, there can be random fluctuations. The point is that it’s fair for travel nurses to expect more out of the job market in general, but results across regions will vary.

Travel Nursing Bill-Rates Increase On Average

With that in mind, the average bill-rate for travel nursing jobs increases in a hot job market. At the outset of a hot job market, the increase is mostly due to an increase in the number of “crisis-rate” contracts.  These are contracts where the hospital is offering the agency an increase on the standard bill-rate rate in order to entice agencies and candidates to fill the jobs. If the market stays hot for an extended period, then agencies will be in a position to negotiate higher contracted bill-rates during their next round of contract negotiations with the hospital. Review this article for more information on bill-rates.

There are two important issues for travel nurses to consider regarding bill-rate increases. First, it will be difficult to know for certain when a particular job has an increased bill-rate or not. Sometimes recruiters advertise them as such and other times they don’t.

Second, your chances of leaving money on the table increase when bill-rates rise. This is because you’re used to working for a certain amount as a travel nurse. So an increase of 5%-10% looks great! But the increased bill-rate may have warranted offering 15%-20% more than you are used to working for. Recruiters know this and they’ll try to work the best deals for their companies whenever possible.

To give you an idea of how high bill rates can get in a hot market, I spoke with an agency CEO during the hot market in 2016. He said they were seeing bill rates as high $120 per hour for Labor & Delivery nurses. Bill-rates are typically $58 to $72 for L&D depending on the area.

Now, I can’t personally vouch for that; I’d have to see it to believe it. But I have no reason to believe that he was misrepresenting the situation.

Negotiating Becomes Much More Strategic

As a result, negotiating becomes much more strategic. You see, when the job market is cold, bill rates get reduced to such a low point that agencies are almost forced to give travelers the best deals they can. Otherwise, nobody would be accepting their jobs.

If you did a really excellent job at negotiating during a cold job market, then you might earn 2% more by the end of the year. And while that equates to about $3,000, it’s nothing compared to the potential losses from inadequate negotiation during a hot job market.

We have tons of tips and tricks to help you negotiate the best travel nursing pay packages in our free eBook on the subject. It’s got over 60 pages of basics, methods and tips to help you negotiate the best deals every time. Download it to find out why Epstein LaRue of Highway Hypodermics says, “Don’t negotiate your next contract without it!”
BluePipes: Professional Networking and Career Management Tools for Healthcare Professionals


Travel Nursing Jobs Stay Open Longer on Average

In a hot job market, travel nursing jobs stay open longer on average. This is true across the board. However, jobs in highly desirable destinations like Hawaii and San Diego, California may still get filled fairly quickly.

Nonetheless, jobs that are advertised on job boards and via social media should exhibit a much longer shelf life. That’s good news for travelers who often understandably complain that agency job postings are pointless. You see, during cold job markets, travel nursing jobs fill so fast that agencies can’t even keep their job orders fresh. Jobs can close in as little as a half an hour in a cold market!

So in a hot market, it’s not a total waste of time to conduct your job search using job boards and social media.

Holding Out Can Pay-off For Travel Nurses In A Hot Market

Travelers often wonder how early they should sign their next contract. There are several factors for them to consider. First, if you sign on too early, then it leaves more time for circumstances to change for both the traveler and the hospital. This could result in the contract being cancelled. If you wait too long, then perhaps you won’t be able to find an ideal job in time and will end up settling for something you don’t really want, or losing money.

In a hot job market, the chances of negative outcomes from holding out are greatly diminished. There are simply more jobs available. Moreover, the highest paying crisis-rate jobs tend to require very quick start dates. So you could potentially get better pay by holding out.

Of course, you have to be ready to go with your travel nursing documentation. We discuss tips for that in this travel nursing podcast episode. Moreover, there is still a slight risk of getting caught without a great option if you hold out too long, so proceed with caution.

Finally, you always have to weigh your desired destinations versus your desired pay. Many experienced travel nurses will say that there are destination assignments and pay assignments. What they mean is that pay and destination don’t always align at the perfect time. Again, this is particularly true in places like Hawaii and San Diego, California.

You Should Expect Agencies To Be More Customer Focused

When the travel nursing job market is cold, there are more nurses than there are jobs. In that situation, agencies can be more selective. More importantly, they can be more demanding. Here is an example quote from a recruiter that was posted on a popular social media platform:

Well, I was just making the point that NO ONE will lose if you opt not to take a job. We understand and will offer it to someone else. WE ALL have options. You have to ask yourself an underlying question. Who will you impact with your stance the most?

This quote is in response to a traveler who said that she just fired 2 of her travel nursing agencies because they used a testing service called Prophecy. She finds the exams overbearing and they are certainly more tedious than others.

The recruiter’s stance is that the agency will just place another candidate in the job. Even in a cold job market, there is very little chance of this happening. In a hot job market, it’s almost impossible.

This recruiter would be wise to accept this feedback and take it to his superiors so they may consider using another resource for testing. In a hot job market, travelers have much more power, that’s why we call it a “travel nurse’s market.” Travel nurses should take advantage of this reality by rewarding companies that provide better service whenever possible. This will ensure that all companies follow the lead.

For example, there are over 25 agencies that have contacted us to let us know that they will simplify the onboarding process by accepting your BluePipes Resume, Application and Skills Checklist in lieu of filling out the company’s paperwork. That’s one set of documentation to work with over 25 agencies and you’re free to send your documentation wherever you want.

Moreover, some of the highest ranked agencies in the business are on the list including Atlas MedStaff, Travel Nurse Across America, Trinity, Soliant, The Right Solutions and many more! Join BluePipes for free, reward these agencies with your business and there may soon come a time when travel nurses never have to fill out another application or skills checklist again!

We hope you enjoyed this article and would love to hear any tips or observations you have regarding the hot travel nursing job market!

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