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Is the job market for pediatric travel nurses on the rebound after the initial Covid slump? Where is demand spiking—and what should your paycheck look like? In this interview with DailyNurse, NurseFly founder Parth Bhakta answers these questions and describes the current job market for pediatric travel nurses (this is the first part of a two-part story. Next week, a PICU nurse describes her unit’s experience during the pandemic and offers tips for pediatric travel RNs).

DailyNurse: Can you give us an overview of the current job climate for travel pediatric RNs?

Parth Bhakta: “Pediatric ICU (PICU) RNs are in increased demand across the US, especially as we see an uptick in flu and COVID cases in school-age children. In fact, from August to September this year, NurseFly recorded a 313% jump in demand for PICU RNs, which suggests they are becoming overwhelmed with an influx of patients and not enough nurses to schedule.

“We’re seeing [pediatric travel nurses] respond to increased demand in hot spots across the country, from New York to Houston to Los Angeles and every state in between.”

Parth Bhakta, CEO, NurseFly
Pediatric ICU travel nurses are in demand
Travel pediatric nurses are needed all over the US.

Of course, COVID has changed the travel nursing landscape — at least for the time being — forcing nurses to rethink how they approach their assignments. Before the pandemic, travel nurses were choosing locations based on their interest in the city or nearby activities. Now, we’re seeing them respond to increased demand in hot spots across the country, from New York to Houston to Los Angeles and every state in between.

Hospital needs have been incredibly difficult to predict with fluctuating patient censuses and overwhelmed staff. Temporary healthcare staffing platforms like NurseFly help solve this urgent staffing crisis by connecting travel nurses with staffing agency partners and hospitals to meet urgent needs more quickly and effectively (NurseFly fills positions 80% faster than traditional staffing methods).

We anticipate hospitals and healthcare systems will get more comfortable with digital transformation during the pandemic out of necessity and will look to evolve their traditional recruitment model to quickly backfill positions and meet potential future crisis demand. Ultimately, this is a win for travel nurses who will be able to review and apply to even more job postings in real-time for a seamless candidate experience that supports a fast hiring process.”

DN: Is the increase in demand for RNs to work as pediatric ICU nurses part of an ongoing pattern, or has there been a sudden shortage since the pandemic?

Bhakta: “The pediatric ICU RN shortage is part of an ongoing pattern. NurseFly’s data highlights how PICU nurse demand peaked in March, at the start of the pandemic, and dropped nearly 79% in April. This is likely because of the COVID-related volatility and its impact on health systems. Near the start of the pandemic, it was thought that children were largely unaffected by the coronavirus, and within months, there were studies that confirmed they could be impacted just as severely as adults.

We saw demand for PICU travel nurses start to return slowly in July, and now in October, we’re seeing nearly 10 times the demand over the lowest point in May. The rebound at least partly comes from health facilities reopening, and potentially indicates a spike in COVID-infected kids.”

Demand for pediatric travel nurses is on the rise again, following an initial drop at the start of the pandemic.

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Demand for pediatric travel RNs is back on the rise. (Chart: NurseFly)

DN: In what locations are PICU travel RNs most in demand right now?

Bhakta: “NurseFly data from October shows that the states with highest demand for pediatric ICU RNs are Texas, California, and Washington DC. The fastest growing need for PICU RNs from September to October are Texas and North Carolina, with a 179% and 87% increase in demand respectively.

PICU RNs typically see increased demand during winter months because of normal complications (illness, accidents), and that will be exacerbated this year as a result of COVID.

DN: What is the current pay for traveling PICU RNs, and where can you find the best pay packages?

Bhakta: “Despite a fluctuating demand for travel pediatric ICU RNs across the country, average pay for travel PICU RNs has remained relatively stable for the last year, at roughly $1,800-$1,900 per week.

Further, hospital and health systems in Idaho, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky and California are paying traveling PICU RNs the most on average, with the highest weekly packages paying up to $3,874 in New York and $4,500 in Pennsylvania.

This granular level of pay transparency is critical to travel healthcare workers during the pandemic and beyond, and creates more efficiencies for all RNs when the time comes to look for a new contract. However, 51% of employers don’t make salary information available to early-stage candidates, only 22% say they’re likely to start sharing that information within the next five years. That will be a crucial area of the healthcare recruitment process to improve as the demand for travel pediatric RNs and other roles continues to increase.”

DN: What makes travel nursing an attractive choice for so many nurses?

Bhakta: “Travel nurses are an excellent option for health systems that need to quickly fill staffing vacancies. The position is attractive to those early on in their RN careers, or with as much as 30 years’ of experience. Travel nurses choose their positions based on a variety of factors, such as lucrative pay packages, proximity to their family, wanting to live in a new location, or pursuing other hobbies and interests. It often combines nurses’ wanderlust with their commitment to patient care.”

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