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Travel Nursing in the Gig Economy

 In Atlas

Having been in this industry for 15 years now, I’ve seen a lot of things. Good times, bad times, high bill rates, low bill rates, lots of jobs, very few jobs. I’ve seen it all….at a micro level. But if I zoom back and look at a macro level, something very interesting appears. A view of our industry that has been evolving right before our eyes. Travel nursing, while not a true independent contractor profession, has grown and evolved along with other contract jobs into what economists are calling the gig economy.

Contract staffing isn’t anything new. Travel nursing started in 1978. But the wide acceptance of travel nursing has really just come around, thanks to the gig economy. Apps like Uber, Lyft, Bellhop and Fiverr are common place. They offer alternatives to the traditional 9-5 employment like we’ve never seen before. Some studies indicate that in two years, 40% of the workforce in America will be operating from this realm in some capacity. While that number seems high, they are counting ALL contract or temporary type work, staffing included.

A few years back a rather informal study was done that showed it was more expensive for a hospital system to hire a perm nurse instead of contract nurse by about a factor of 1.7 times. Take the annual salary of the perm nurse times 1.7 and you’ll get the true cost to the hospital. That would include insurance, testing, parking, benefits, etc. With changes in healthcare, that factor has probably changed over the past few years and closer to 1.9 or 2 times. Thus, the boom in travel nursing. What was once a very difficult lifestyle has quickly become the norm.

Who saw this coming? Honestly? Who saw any of this coming? Apps, ride sharing, peer to peer financial transactions, traditional employment to the new gig economy. More importantly, how will things continue to evolve, and how will that impact or change our industry?

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