According to a report by the Wall Street Journal in October 2021, higher crisis pay during COVID-19 has radically transformed the job market and has exacerbated a chronic shortage of permanent medical staff across the country. In some cases, nurses that reportedly earned $45 an hour are now earning up to $120 an hour to travel. As Emergency Rooms continue to fill up with sick patients, healthcare workers are feeling pressure and exhaustion brought on by months of COVID surges and taking care of critically ill patients. Travel-nurse pay has also surged, brought on in part by federal emergency funding to hospitals. In Q2-2020 average gross weekly wages for a travel nurse were around $1,600 a week – One year later in Q2-2021, the average pay was more than $3,500 a week.
In addition, the National Institute of Health estimates that there is still a shortage of approximately one million nurses in the U.S. And this could prove to be the fatal blow for smaller health systems that are unable to pay competitive rates for nurses. Once the crisis contracts are done, several nurses will likely not return to staff jobs. They will not want to go back to the bedside where they know they’re going to be short-staffed and underpaid.