INDIANAPOLIS — Staffing levels are slowly improving as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Indiana and across the U.S. continue to decrease and it's resulting in lower pay for travel nurses who were making upwards of $300 per hour in some cases.
The Indiana Hospital Association says now that we seem to be past the worst of the peaks, those wages have gone down to $120 to $190 an hour, but that's still up to double what it was before.
Brian Tabor with the association says our area had never seen rates or a demand so high for travel nurses until COVID hit, but even though things are winding down he expects the pay to remain inflated for awhile.
A shortage of health care professionals and high volume of patients during covid surges, skyrocketed wages. That coupled with more patients and not enough caregivers led to burnout and early retirements among some of the dedicated local staff.
Tabor says all of that combined created a perfect storm and travel nurses played a vital role in keeping hospitals afloat.
"We needed those nurses, respiratory therapists, other professionals that were traveling as the surging waxed across the country," said Tabor.
It also caused several hospital employees to leave and make more money elsewhere traveling.
Tabor says staffing in area hospitals still isn't where it needs to be.
So, if you're interested in travel nursing there are opportunities, wages just aren't as explosive as it was during the surges.
"We are seeing both fewer travel nurses being used with the hospital and because of supply and demand rates are coming down but travel nursing will still be a significant part of the overall picture for a while. Right now, we have about 3x the openings for nurses that we had before the pandemic but just a few months ago it was 8x the openings so we are still facing a long road, but we are in a much better place than we were during the last surge and before that," he said.
Tabor says although COVID cases have drastically dropped, many hospitals are still full - just not with COVID patients.
"What we are seeing is how much Hoosiers health declined during the pandemic whether it's from missed appointments, we are also seeing a lot of behavioral health issues, the mental health the stress and strain from the pandemic," Tabor said.
He's hoping with travel rates decreasing, more nurses will fill permanent roles in local hospitals to help with staffing shortages.
"We are also working hard within our hospitals to attract back some of those nurses that chose to travel for awhile so there are a lot of incentives, sign on bonuses for people to come back tot he hospital for a more permanent job. We are starting to see come back, but I do think we will still see some people for a period choose travel nursing," said Tabor.