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Travel Nurse Pay Cap: Why Pay Is Getting Cut

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What is the travel nurse pay cap? What is going on with travel nurse agencies, and why pay is getting cut?

Travel nursing has been quite lucrative over the past few years (How Much Money Do Travel Nurses Make).

If you haven’t heard, recently there has a been a huge push to cut travel nurse pay. Well, more specifically the travel nurse agencies pay. Later, we’ll go into detail a bit more, but it’s a big topic right now. In addition, nurses are marching for equal pay, no more pay cuts, and workplace safety (read more).

So, with that being said, let’s get into why they want to cap travel nurse pay, what it means for the industry, and why staffing agencies are not happy about it!

What is the Travel Nurse Pay Cap?

A travel nurse pay cap would effectively put a ceiling on the amount of money a staffing agency could bill for a nurse. Or, put a limit how much money a nurse could make.

While it might not be directed towards the nurse, they are directly effected. Staffing agencies are supposed to cover the differences when a hospital changes a contracts terms. However, this has not been the case recently.

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For example, if a hospital changed a travel nurses pay from $3,500/wk to $3,000/wk, the agency should make up the different. But, again, this is not happening and is causing nurses to lose out.

Why Do Hospitals Want to Cap Nurse Pay?

While hospitals aren’t directly trying to cap nurse pay (or at least not yet), they are trying to cut out staffing agency markups. Because, travel nurse agencies bill a lot more than what the nurses are actually paid, hospitals are forced to pay (in some cases double) higher costs for nurses. Additionally, hospitals also lost a lot of the government funding provided during the pandemic.

For example, a travel nurse might have a pay rate of $75 an hour, while the actual bill rate to the hospital for that nurse can be as high as $150-180 an hour. Even though agencies have to pay for things like housing stipends and insurance they still can make a hefty profit.

The agency is basically a brokerage for travel nurses and hospitals don’t want to pay the premiums. According to an article by Nurse.org, Cross Country Healthcare who specializes primarily in travel nursing, made $132 million in profit in 2021.

In addition to the pay, travel nursing has significantly impacted hospital retention rates. A lot of nurses have either retired earlier or left their respective hospitals in order to take a travel nursing assignment (for more money).

How Are Hospitals Responding?

Hospitals are attempting to improve retention and avoid costs by creating their own internal travel agencies. Basically the concept is instead of paying $150-180 an hour for the same travel nurse in the example before, they only pay the nurses $75 an hour (no markup from a travel agency).

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In addition, some hospitals are even creating certain bonuses for existing staff. These bonuses might include an extra $100 per hour for any additional 12-hour shift taken. While these are welcome bonuses for existing staff, there is still a call to increase nurse pay.

How Are Travel Agencies Responding?

Nursing staffing agencies are attempting to respond the best they can to pay cuts. Unfortunately for travel nurses, it is a tough and unprecedented situation. Travel agencies are going to have to figure out creative ways to keep nursing pay up!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while there are massive highs and lows for travel nurses, there should be more focus on the greater issue. The great issue being the staffing problems at a lot of hospital systems (and medical field in general). There most likely will be a call for change, not only for the patient’s safety, but the staff’s safety as well.

Full Time Nurse

Striving to help nurses and nursing students succeed.

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