Healthcare

Expert Interview with Jeff Long on Travel Nursing and Filling High-Need Roles

travel-nursing
Written by Jessie Liu

Jeff Long, as marketing manager for Medical Solutions, spends quite a bit of time talking about travel nursing, or nurses traveling to different parts of the country to fill temporary needs, and tells nurses what they need to know on Travel Nursing Blogs. He chatted with us about filling a specific, temporary niche.

What is travel nursing, for those unfamiliar with the concept?

Travel nursing is a specific area of the healthcare staffing industry that focuses on providing nurses on a temporary basis to hospitals in need of additional nurse staff. The standard length of a travel nurse contract is 13 weeks, but it can vary, and many jobs will also offer extensions. Nurses go through a travel nurse staffing firm, which helps place them in a temporary assignment at a facility and brokers the terms of employment, including quality screening, housing, benefits and much more.

Why is it so difficult for hospitals in the US to fill these nursing positions with local candidates? Is the shortage of nurses that bad?

Reasons creating the need for additional nurse staff vary widely. Very often, traveler positions are not ones that a hospital intends to fill with a permanent, local candidate, but through temporary staff they are able to more finely tune staffing levels to align with their unique and fluctuating patient care needs.

For example, need can be caused due to a temporary influx of senior citizens to an area like Arizona or Florida in the winter months. With their arrival comes additional population with much greater healthcare needs, which puts a temporary higher demand on healthcare workers. If the hospital were to address this need with permanent positions, it could end up overstaffed in the summer months. Other causes can include EMR conversions, or other such things that might temporarily pull perm staff off the floor. The bottom line is that when need surges for any reason, staffing must follow suit - and travel nursing helps hospitals adapt while continuing to provide excellent patient care and protect their perm staff from nurse burnout.

The nursing shortage is a very real problem - one that travel nursing helps address! Many factors created the nursing shortage, including an aging Baby Boomer population. Aging Boomers will continue to require more medical care, and to compound things further, a huge number of mature Boomer nurses are at or nearing retirement age, eliminating members of the healthcare workforce. Additionally, as more Americans are insured and seeking care, more RNs are required to satisfy the increase in patient care.

How do you find nurses willing to relocate for a role?

There are a lot of amazing benefits to travel nursing that definitely make it worthwhile for nurses. First, and probably the top reason for most nurses, is the ability to travel and experience new places while getting paid. The option of travel nursing is pretty unique to the healthcare industry, as not many other professions can travel at will for work. Travelers can "try on" different cities to better adjudicate potential future re-location, or they may just be in it for the sheer adventure. It also allows them to craft their lifestyle exactly as they want it - an assignment in Colorado can be timed perfectly with ski season, for example, or a job in California or Hawaii can let a nurse escape a cold Midwestern winter.

Travel nursing is also amazing for a nurse's resume and overall professional development. Having travel nursing assignments under his or her belt shows future prospective employers that a nurse is proficient and adaptable. Encountering a variety of hospital systems, challenges, personalities and patient demographics always results in a stronger, better versed nurse.

Another attractive factor to travel nurses is being able to go where their skills are most needed. Nurses are an altruistic lot; they do what they do because they truly care for people in need. Through travel nursing, they are able to ensure that they're using their training and skills at facilities where it will make the most positive impact to patient care quality.

Where do you see healthcare staffing heading in the future?

Healthcare staffing is definitely a growing industry, with sustainable potential for increased future growth. The nursing shortage continues to mount, and some projections predict it will peak around the 2020s. With healthcare reform and progressively greater healthcare needs, healthcare staffing growth may even be poised to outpace current industry projections.

What are some things hospitals should consider when hiring and working with nurses from outside their particular city or state?

Hospital administrators should first educate themselves on the many benefits travel nurses can bring to their facility. Travel nurses prevent nurse burnout and save facilities money in the long run on turnover and other associated costs. And, most importantly, travelers help sustain excellent patient care, which is priceless to patients and their families. In turn, this protects a facility's good reputation for quality care within the community.

Facilities that work to create a welcoming environment for travelers will also get a good reputation as being traveler-friendly. This will help keep both perm and temporary employees engaged and happy on the job - leading to better patient outcomes, while also attracting the best nurse talent.

What should hospitals consider when working with a healthcare staffing agency to meet their staffing needs?

Hospitals should make sure they work with travel nurse staffing companies that emphasize quality screening and deliver only the best temporary nurses. There are many agencies out there that will sacrifice quality to seal a deal, but at the end of the day it is the hospital's reputation on the line. The number one thing a hospital should look for in a healthcare staffing agency is a commitment to offering quality providers.

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