Welcome to the new Outpatient Surgery website! Check out our login FAQs.
Life on the Road
Nationwide staffing shortages and surges of COVID variants are fueling unprecedented demand for travel nurses at the front lines of care.
Outpatient Surgery Editors
Publish Date: February 2, 2022   |  Tags:   Industry Trends Staffing
Shelley Harris
ROLLING STONE Life on the road suits Shelley Harris, who crisscrosses the country to take care of patients.   |   Shelley Harris

Shelley Harris, RN, opted for the transient lifestyle when she was young, single and ready to explore the world. Twenty-two years later, she’s still at it. The New Hampshire native, who just finished a travel nursing assignment in Puerto Rico, usually spends her winters working in warm weather climes and returns home for the summer months. These days she travels with her husband, who runs his own business and can work remotely wherever they set up their temporary home, and their new dog Nugget.

“The longer I’ve been traveling, the easier it gets to swoop in and become part of the team,” says Ms. Harris. “Surgery is surgery, no matter where you go.”

She considered establishing permanent roots twice during her career, but loves the flexibility and variety of life on the road.

Apparently, she’s not alone. When this issue went to print, the travel nursing agency Aya Healthcare had 14 postings for outpatient surgery nurses in California, Florida, Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Washington and Oregon. Two postings in Los Angeles were categorized with a “crisis response” status and listed the start date as “ASAP.” Salaries weren’t posted, but postings for ICU nurses offered salaries of $9,486 a week. 

Barry Asin, president of Staffing Industry Analysts, a research firm that tracks travel employees, said in his keynote speech at the 2021 Healthcare Staffing Summit in Boston that travel nursing is expected to grow by 40% this year. He said he thinks the growth estimate is conservative, but also noted, “We do think that crisis pay can’t go on forever.”

The spread of the omicron variant and blossoming subvariants continue to drive record-setting hospitalizations and while stressing healthcare workers who were already suffering from burnout exacerbated by staffing shortages that have reached crisis levels. Hospitals desperate for help have turned to travel nurses, creating a domino effect that has left many surgical leaders struggling to keep their facilities fully staffed. 

We must be creative and thoughtful in developing innovative staffing solutions.
— John Galley, BS, MBA

Travel nurses are in extremely high demand and the inflated fees they command — in some cases triple what they’ve earned in the past — are attracting plenty of attention. Some nurses who’ve been traveling for years see an opportunity to cash in, while some full-time staffers are being seduced by lucrative temporary assignments. “I think anybody who’s leaving their permanent job now to travel sees it as an opportunity to make more money, and I don’t blame them,” says Ms. Harris.

It’s difficult to find fault in chasing a higher salary, but there’s always a price to pay for making more money. 

New to Outpatient Surgery Magazine?
Login or subscribe to continue reading this article