Our once budding world has changed. Like almost every profession has suffered, COVID-19 has changed travel nursing as well, and perhaps, not for the best.
While everyone spent most of 2020 in their homes, travel nurses had to do the opposite. Hospitals had been overflowing with critical patients. Travel nurses tend to their needs, even if it means putting their own lives at risk.
COVID-19 has pushed medical staff, including travel nurses, to their limits. They have worked around the clock for the lives of people, and for that, they rightly deserve credit.
COVID-19 has also intensified the pre-pandemic benefits of travel nursing. To learn more about these effects, keep reading.
COVID-19 Has Changed Travel Nursing by making COVID Patients A Priority
Ever since the pandemic hit, there has been chaos everywhere.
Critically ill COVID-19 patients have overflooded hospitals. Wards and ICU’s are filling up at record-breaking speeds. This has led to a call for support by nurses, both travel and permanent, in this department. And expectedly, nurses have generously responded in pounding numbers.
On the other hand, elective procedures are minimal because people try staying at home, especially when hospitals have COVID-infected patients. This means departments like the Operating Room, Pediatrics, and Surgery-Technology have been nearly empty, requiring little to no travel nurses.
Just like that, the volume of work and focus of hospitals – and travel nurses – has shifted from elective procedures to COVID patients.
Unfortunately, hospitals’ priorities also varied between regular nurses and travel nurses – our next area of focus.
Availability of Contracts – Permanent Nurses Versus Travel Nurses
The number of patients requiring care has increased drastically with COVID. This means more nurses are needed urgently.
Hospitals are welcoming travel nurses, where gaps in permanent nurses are growing.
As a consequence, travel nursing assignments are being affected in the following ways:
More Travel Contracts
The increased census caused by COVID, coupled with areas of the country trying to re-open there has been a surge in demand for qualified travel nurses. Not all specialities have been affected equally, with the larges needs being in Critical Care.
Increased Competitiveness for Nurses and Healthcare Professionals
As a result of the increase in job openings, the competition for qualified personnel has increased. Hospitals and healthcare organizations across the county are seeking help as they approach full capacity and some are setting up overflow beds.
Increased Pay Rates
Higher competition for healthcare professionals means higher pay. The pay is the highest our industry has seen in decades for a broad spectrum of locations. Some contracts are offering more than $5000/week.
Who Stands A Chance After COVID Changed Travel Nursing?
How COVID-19 has changed travel nursing is one thing, but how travel nurses have been able to take advantage of it is the other. With these two qualities, you can be successful as a travel nurse too.
With so many options and high demand, nurses need to have excellent communication with their recruiters. This will convey their demands efficiently. In turn, they will get priority. Recruiters in turn must be excellent at communication too. With the increased pace, and acceptance, in many times without interviews, everyone must be on the same page.
The higher availability of assignments means hospitals prefer nurses who are willing to work as per their requirements. Don’t set out significant demands and be flexible, and you’ll stand a good chance.
Results of Increased Assignments
A higher number of travel nursing assignments means some travel nurses will need to find investments for their additional income.
Some are investing in homes and RVs. Others are seeking money managers and setting up retirement accounts.
From Travel Nursing to Assets in Research
Before COVID, travel nurses merely did their regular nursing job. But COVID has expanded its role greatly.
Some might think travel nurses are merely caring for infected patients. But there’s something under the cover you wouldn’t know. Serving COVID patients 24/7 means they can observe patterns in health and varying symptoms very closely.
What’s the Real Benefit?
This observation is a useful asset in treating and researching COVID. It goes beyond any kind of research done, as COVID is a recently discovered disease. Listening from firsthand experiences would help figure the success rates of the different treatments being tried, amongst other benefits.
The practical experience versus theory concept, you know?
COVID-19 Has Changed Travel Nursing Assignments Too
As a travel nurse, you’d already know how you usually prepare for your assignment.
But not all of it will be handy during COVID. Before you think about how you’ll explore the new area, you want to prioritize the following:
Do Your Research
When you’ve taken up your assignment, you should first research your future location.
This may include the area’s testing facilities and rules, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) regulations, laws on traveling, and using a mask.
Once you are familiar with these, you’ll know what to expect from your assignment. And trust me, it’ll make your experience a lot easier (which would be difficult to say for nurses during COVID).
Emotional Strength Is Your Best Friend
During the pandemic, these uncertain times are emotionally draining for regular people, let alone nurses working in overflooding hospitals.
When you are in ICUs and wards full of critically sick people, you may get overwhelmed. You may feel lonely and depressed, and at times stressed over passing the virus to your loved ones. And as a nurse, you know the worst feeling is losing your patient, and unfortunately, you’ll be seeing a lot of that.
But remember: these times won’t last. It’ll get better soon. One day it’ll be over. Wipe away those tears, give yourself a pat on the back and get onto your feet – those people need you.
You got this.
Be Open to Adapting
Overflowing patients in the wards and ICUs means hospitals need nurses who can offer more flexibility. In short, you should be willing to stay away from home for more extended periods, work consecutive shifts when required, compromise on pay rates, and so on.
This may seem hard, but it’s the need of the hour. And our nurses know it.
Prioritize Your Health
Although COVID-19 has changed travel nursing and now you’re fighting on the foreground, this doesn’t mean you forget yourself.
With so many patients, you’re going to be working around the clock. Such a hectic routine means little to no time for self-care (and sometimes even for sleep!), but don’t let that affect your health.
Stay on top of your nutrition, take those supplements, sleep whenever you get the chance, and stay connected to loved ones who will lift you emotionally.
Managing Personal Protective Equipment – PPE
Many people find using a mask hard; imagine wearing that entire set of gloves, goggles, shields, and whatnot.
Before reaching your destination, research the PPE requirements of your hospital so you’re mentally prepared for what you’ll be wearing.
That gear can not only be annoying but can also raise body temperatures. To keep yourself cool, stay hydrated, drink ice slurries, and give yourself time to recover between shifts.
Learn Some Tech-Savviness
With the stay-at-home orders from the government, people are avoiding going out until necessary.
And at hospitals… lots of COVID patients means LOTS of coronavirus germs. And as you would’ve guessed, people avoid going there at all costs.
As a solution, “telehealth” has been introduced. Telehealth means tending to the needs of the sick through electronic devices, such as mobile phones and laptops.
This means you’d find yourself video chatting and conversating over phone calls. And for this, you’ll need some basic knowledge of technology – the more you know, the better.
Enhance Your Safety Skills
With your hospital having COVID patients, you will need to learn how to keep yourself and the place around you disinfected.
For this, you should learn some necessary skills.
These include disinfecting areas where patients may have rested and learning how to communicate with infected people, which I’ll be talking about next.
COVID-19 Has Changed Travel Nursing by Risking the Safety of Travel Nurses
Nurses have put their lives at stake to serve humanity.
When people stay in their homes to keep safe, nurses are fighting the COVID battle in hospitals.
This risk is worse for travel nurses, who:
- Travel in such dangerous, uncertain times to reach their location of assignment
- Live far away from their homes and loved ones
- Put their health at risk to serve COVID patients and be their support system
To try your best to safeguard your life in this battle against COVID, you should know some skills:
Wear Your Protective Equipment
Your safety comes first.
Make sure to use the maximum protective equipment you can. This includes masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hoods, and shields. At this point you shouldn’t care if it’s annoying or not, safety first.
Keep Those Germs Away
Nursing means it’s going to be you and a battleground containing the enemy, coronavirus. The germs are going to be all around you. In such a situation, you need to know how to protect yourself:
- Whenever you remove your gloves (or other PPE), wash your hands with soap or use alcohol-based sanitizers.
- As hard as it may be, try to maintain your distance from others.
- Know your basics of infection control.
Know-How to Communicate with COVID Patients – An Important Part of Keeping Up with Change
You will often find yourself encountering COVID patients. Please make sure to have your equipment fully buckled before you enter their wards or ICUs.
Another significant issue is the distance you’ll have to maintain.
COVID patients are isolated from their families and overwhelmed by the virus they caught. They will be depressed, worried, stressed – a mix of all those emotions.
I know you’ll want to hug them or at least hold their hand to make them feel better. But please refrain and maintain your distance. You can console them with your words all you want, but do not go near them. Do it for your health and do it for your safety.
Final Words on How COVID-19 Has Changed Travel Nursing
Primarily, COVID-19 has changed travel nursing by increasing assignments with demand across the country. This has created higher than normal pay rates and opportunities for savings and investment.
While some have found fulfillment, others have reported increased stress levels, and work hours have become hectic. The job requirements have increased likewise. From merely tending to the sick’s needs, travel nurses now have to possess basic knowledge of technology compatible with telemedicine.
But no matter what, nurses are learning more, using preventative measures, spending long hours at work, and putting in their best to save their fellow beings.