Job satisfaction and conditions also play heavily in travelers' decision to return to a permanent position.
Most clinicians with travel contracts—86%—are open to permanent employment for the right price, and that involves more than just wages.
Their top five considerations for evaluating whether to return to a permanent position, according to The Future of Healthcare Work Report 2023, are:
- Hourly wage
- Workload (staffing)
- Commute time
- Flexible schedules
The Future of Healthcare Work Report is Vivian Health’s annual study to provide timely and relevant data and information for its clients’ recruitment and retention efforts. Vivian Health, a healthcare hiring marketplace, surveyed nearly 1,700 clinical and clinical-support staff from across the country to better understand travel versus employed clinicians’ current perceptions about wages and their work environment.
Clinicians who have been on long- and short-term travel contracts are more willing to explore permanent employment in 2023 are a likely result of the decrease in average travel wages, the report says. U.S. travel nurse pay as of March 21, 2023, averaged $2,330 a week, which is a decrease of 33.27% from the average wage of $3,492 during March 2022, according to Vivian Health.
While this comes as welcome news for employers who lost RNs over the past two years to more lucrative travel positions, they must also realize that attracting clinicians back to permanent employment will require investments in wages, improved workloads (better staffing, for example), flexible schedules, and healthier work environments, the report says.
Show me the money
Salary ranks at the top of the list of considerations for travel clinicians to return to permanent employment. The report breaks down the average hourly wages they seek:
- Advance practice (majority NP): $100
- RN: $61.04
- Allied health and therapies: $47.27
- LPN/LVN: $37.67
- CNA: $27.56
- CMA: $20.67
Healthy work environments are becoming increasingly important in a competitive job market.
For the first time, responding clinicians indicate greater consideration for their work-life balance and safety. For example, interest in flexible work arrangements that fit into busy lives are important, as well as a safe and secure work environment free from rising incivility and violence, according to the report. Support for mental health and well-being, and burnout are crucial in retaining current staff and recruiting travel clinicians back to permanent positions, the report says.
While this year’s survey revealed mixed levels of satisfaction with employers related to having a healthy work environment, valuing clinician input, supporting mental health, and receiving adequate time off, there are indications that attitudes have improved from last year where less than 1% of respondents reported adequate staffing, compared to this year where 13% of clinicians reported having staff to ensure patient care 100% of the time.
When respondents were asked, “What could your employer do to increase your overall job satisfaction?” the top five answers were:
- Increase number of support staff
- Increase number of nurses
- Allow adequate time for meals and breaks
- Offer more PTO
- Offer flex scheduling
While negative feelings related to healthcare careers are less intense in this year’s study, there remains work to do to improve healthcare work environments, according to the report, which recommends:
- Increase salaries: RNs are seeking $61 per hour, but as one option, consider offering higher hourly rates in lieu of statutory benefits.
- Flexible scheduling: Offer a variety of shift lengths (4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 hours) and scheduling options (full- and part-time, per diem, travel, weekend, etc.).
- Balance workload: Improve nursing workload by hiring additional nursing and clinical-support staff so RNs provide the patient care that requires a professional license. Explore different patient care delivery models.
- Seek input: Continue to gather nurses’ input into decision-making; use shared-leadership and a participatory leadership style.
- Support mental health: One simple strategy is to ensure staff have adequate time off. Monitor the number of consecutive shifts worked, time off between shifts, and the use of PTO to mitigate fatigue, stress, and burnout.
“While negative feelings related to healthcare careers are less intense in this year’s study, there remains work to do to improve healthcare work environments.”
The Future of Healthcare Work Report 2023
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Most clinicians with travel contracts are open to permanent employment under the right conditions.
Salary ranks at the top of the list of considerations for travel clinicians to return to permanent employment.
Healthy and safe work environments are becoming increasingly important in a competitive job market.