If you are an RN who is thinking about becoming a travel nurse, or you are already taking on travel nursing assignments, you might be curious about which U.S. states have the highest demand for nurses.
According to All Healthcare, there will be a need for over 1 million nurses in the U.S. by next year, making travel nursing one of the most in-demand careers around. While all states are seeing a high demand across the board, there are some areas with an increased need.
We recently spoke with Travis Schmidt, a branch manager for Aureus Medical, who explained state-by-state trends and how they relate to the future of travel nursing. Whether you're motivated by a higher salary or finding assignments in places where there's a substantial need, having this information could help you narrow down what kinds of assignments best suit your career goals and ambitions.
"There will be a need for over 1 million nurses by 2016."
Where are nurses needed the most?
As the population increases and people move to more urban areas, certain areas of the country simply need more nurses because more people are living in those respective states.
"Right now they're going to be California, Florida, Arizona, Texas … anything that has the highest population has the greatest demand," Schmidt said.
Schmidt also mentioned that states with warmer climates generally become more attractive places to live and to work once the colder weather arrives. However, because these states are some of the most desirable overall, according to Schmidt, they tend to have a high demand for nursing assignments year-round.
Factors behind high demand
The Affordable Care Act has influenced many sectors of the healthcare industry, and the demand for travel nursing is no different. Thanks to the insurance reforms outlined in the legislation, a larger percentage of individuals have access to medical care, and need nurses to help deliver these treatments.
In the past few years the U.S. has started to climb its way out of a recession, and nurses are also seeing a more diverse demand for surgeries and treatments.
"The economy [has] improved as well, so people are getting more elective surgeries done," Schmidt explained.
Baby boomer generation creating a high demand for nurses
Even in the past one to two years the travel nursing demand has risen throughout the country, Schmidt indicated. However, an increasing senior population is also driving these occupational trends in a big way.
"Some of these areas are retirement areas … as you have baby boomers that are retiring, you have them moving into certain locations," he explained.
He went on to say that although Florida and Arizona are common areas for U.S. retirement, Texas is also beginning to experience the "snowbird influx." Schmidt also said that coastal areas of Florida and Phoenix in the winter are popular with retirees, thus affecting demand.
"For us, Florida … Texas and Arizona used to be a lot more seasonal, really busy in the wintertime, [but] not quite as busy in the summertime. We just don't see that anymore. [These states] have open positions all the time," Schmidt explained. He emphasized that while there are a handful of states with the greatest nursing shortage levels, the need is nationwide with no state being immune. "We're seeing places that have never used agency nurses or have needed help before … starting to reach out. The demand is very, very high right now … it's probably the highest I've ever seen it, and I've been in the industry over 11 years."
Hospitals respond to the nursing demand
Not every state is as popular of a destination as, for example, Florida or California. For some hospitals, attracting a travel nurse to their state and facility, especially those located in rural areas, can become challenging. Schmidt explained that one way hospitals are making assignments more attractive is by increasing pay rates, which have been trending upward in all states, or by offering completion bonuses and the like.
Because there is a general demand everywhere, nurses can generally have their pick of locations.
How licensing can have an impact on demand
Some states have a longer process for licensing – which can have a negative impact on demand. For instance, even though California and Florida are some of the most popular locales for a travel nurse, it can take a long time to get licensed in these states. At times, the process can take six weeks or longer. Although there is an online process to access the licensing in most states, nurses have to be very thorough with their applications and must follow up with the state's Board of Registered Nursing.
"Some nurses will only travel regionally to work closer to home."
Specialties to focus on
Schmidt concluded that while there is a demand in all specialties, some of the more prevalent ones include ER, ICU, med-surg, OR and labor/delivery assignments.
Though the aforementioned warmer climates are quite popular for seasonal retirement communities, during the summer, some nurses will only travel regionally so that they can work closer to home. For instance, if a nurse lives in Tennessee, Schmidt explained, he or she might only take assignments in Kentucky or Ohio. However, he said that there are also many RNs that are willing to go work anywhere. It simply depends on the assignment.
With such a high demand for nursing across the U.S., travel nurses have a great opportunity to explore new places, earn income and gain experience. The need for nurses is everywhere, offering you plenty to choose from so you can find an assignment that fits your career goals and aspirations.