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Travel Nurse Agencies & Price Gouging

June 10, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Alan Moss

Executive Summary 

Nursing is one of the fastest-growing careers in the U.S. and will likely continue to be in high demand as the number of individuals aged 65+ increases over time. Shortages in nursing staff have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a rise in the reliance of healthcare institutions on third-party contracting for short-term nurse positions referred to as travel nurses. To combat high pricing by travel nurse agencies, several states including Missouri (SB 1222 and HB 2710) have introduced legislation to limit the amount travel nurse agencies can charge during national and state emergencies.  

Highlights 

  • In March 2022, 29% of Missouri nursing facilities reported nurse staff shortages which was higher than the national average of 24%.
  • Travel nurses can earn significantly higher wages than those in permanent nursing positions, but they generally report lower levels of job satisfaction than other nurse positions, including due to feeling less appreciated and safe at work.
  • The number of travel nursing positions decreased significantly from January to April of 2022.
  • Several hospital systems, including in Missouri, have started internal travel nursing programs to increase nurse retention and decrease reliance on travel nurse agencies.
  • Legislation to address increased prices by travel nurse agencies during national or state emergencies has been passed in Oregon and was introduced in several other states in 2022 (MD, ID, IN, KS, NY, PA).

Limitations 

  • Due to the recency of travel nurse agency pricing legislation and rapid fluctuations in travel nurse position supply, there is not sufficient data to gauge the effects of such legislation.
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