August 10, 2023

Earlier this month, 30 healthcare staffing agencies formed an ad hoc coalition. They sent a letter to the US Department of Labor seeking a ruling on whether healthcare travelers can be classified as independent contractors (ICs) versus W2 employees. According to the IRS, you are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by the employer - such as a hospital. What matters is whether the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed. The letter asserted that healthcare workers (specifically Registered Nurses) are misclassified when working as independent contractors. It also stated that benefits such as overtime pay, access to employer-provided healthcare insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation are generally denied to ICs. They could also face severe tax consequences if they fail to satisfy IRS self-employment regulations. This issue of classification has been a long-standing controversy in the industry. 

The coalition letter argued that travel nurses do not qualify as independent contractors. Although PanTravelers has previously published articles offering pointers for travelers wishing to pursue working as independent contractors, we want to emphasize that classification as an independent contractor is not appropriate for most healthcare travelers since administrators and medical directors exercise supervision and control over the work they perform. 

September 30, 2022

With the record-breaking demand for healthcare travelers since 2019, the interest in the conference for travelers has expanded, too. Last week, TravCon 2022 reported record-breaking attendance by travelers (and would-be travelers) along with a record number of staffing agency exhibitors hoping to recruit these healthcare professionals. It seems inevitable that the unprecedented increase in COVID-19 demand for travelers will decline as the pandemic diminishes.  But despite reduced hospital admissions and relaxing COVID restrictions, job orders have remained high throughout 2022. The demand for travelers to fill these positions remains strong. TravCon continues to be the principal nexus of interactions between current travelers and staffing agencies and is the foremost educational venue for clinicians interested in becoming travelers.

March 3, 2022

It will not surprise anybody that hospitals and long-term care facilities, which have been chronically underpaying their full-time staff for decades, are not pleased now that they have to fork out very high bill rates during this nationwide staffing shortage to attract travelers they need. Recently, there have been both state and federal discussions about passing legislation to limit what they have to pay to staffing agencies and, ultimately, capping travel nurse pay rates. So far, no specific legislation has been introduced, but we are watching this very closely. Naturally, healthcare travelers are opposed to any legislation that would limit their ability to receive competitive, fair pay. Recently, Laura Latimer, with TravCon TV, sat down with Toby Malara, an attorney with the American Staffing Association for a three-part interview. He understands the issues better than most. Here's the link to Part 1 of that excellent interview on YouTube: All three parts are up and ready to watch.

October 1, 2021

 The annual healthcare travelers conference - TravCon - concluded last week in Las Vegas. For months, it was uncertain whether the in-person conference would be held at all due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. However, improving case numbers and a very high vaccination rate among the attendees allowed for a safe conference. The organizers reported an 80% vaccination rate and excellent compliance with PPE among the healthcare travelers who have been suiting up for going on two years. This devastating disease has transformed every aspect of society, and healthcare travel is no exception. With chronic nursing shortages already the norm even before the pandemic, the demand for nurses in all specialties has exploded since January 2020, particularly in critical care specialties where the demand in many regions is eight times normal. Along with higher demand has come higher pay.  Travel nurse pay has never been higher, with some nursing contracts paying $10,000 per week or more. It will be interesting to see whether these higher rates endure following the pandemic - if that day ever arrives.

March 3, 2021

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, pay rates for registered nurses jumped by 24% year over year amid an increase in demand prompted by the pandemic, according to data released by PRO Unlimited, an MSP and VMS provider. Overall, pay in the healthcare sector rose an average of 19%. This is in line with anecdotal reports of remarkably higher rates among those staffing coronavirus crisis positions. Although rates will likely drop somewhat once the frantic response to the pandemic stabilizes and diminishes, we expect that rates will stabilize at a generally higher level than pre-pandemic bill rates. This is good news!

June 11, 2019

Staffing complaints are common in healthcare, particularly in busy hospital settings. Travelers are reminded to be careful with social media posts that reflect negatively on their contract facility. A widely discussed, recent decision by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) administrative law judge (ALJ) reinforced the notion that employees in healthcare settings are protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). While this is true for full-time staff, applying this precedent to travelers has not been tested in court. 

Healthcare travelers do not enjoy the same protections as FTE staff. In most cases, our employers are the agency with whom we are contracted. PanTravelers has monitored several recent discussions on Facebook between travelers who believe that this decision offers solid protection from termination for posting criticisms of their assignment facility while on assignment. PanTravelers wants to remind you that if you are tempted to criticize your contract facility online for anything, the consequences may be the immediate cancellation of your contract. 

 March 4, 2019 - TravCon 2019 Registration is OPEN! Contributing PanTravelers members get 20% off.

 December 10, 2018 - Unsafe Staffing: Big Win for the Right to Speak Up

Karen-Jo Young, an employee of the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital, was concerned about nurse staffing levels and employee dissatisfaction at the hospital. She wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, which was published in the newspaper. The hospital immediately fired her for violating their media policy. Karen-Jo then filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Judge in the case ruled in favor of Karen-Jo, finding that, because her letter to the editor complaining about staffing levels constituted protected concerted activity, the hospital had improperly discharged her in violation of Section 7 of the NRLA. The Judge ordered the hospital to reinstate Karen-Jo Young and “make her whole for any loss of earnings and other benefits.”

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September 13, 2018 - Expanded program for Allied travelers at TravCon 2018 

TravCon 2018 was another huge success. Over 1,000 healthcare travelers attended the conference. There was an expanded pre and post-conference schedule with a great CEN Review, a Medical Spanish Intensive session, our always-popular Newbie BootCamp on Sunday before the main conference (held Monday and Tuesday), plus another Medical Spanish Intensive class and the new TravCon Brunch on Wednesday. The brunch was very well attended and gave all attendees a chance to unwind, socialize, and enjoy a delicious brunch buffet before flying back home (or back to their assignments). Many attendees are now making a week of the conference, arriving on Saturday and leaving on Wednesday so they can enjoy the pre and post-conference sessions and participate in the many social activities surrounding the main conference.

PanTravelers mission is to support all healthcare travelers, including our allied colleagues. This is true for TravCon as well, which the association co-sponsors. For 2018, TravCon made a concerted effort to be more inclusive of Allied travelers, offering CEUs specific for most allied specialties. This was very successful and TravCon plans to expand this initiative for 2019. A special subcommittee has been formed to focus on this effort.



2018 Q3 Update.

As we approach the end of the year, we can report that the year has been, on the whole, a good one. The year started badly, with a marked decline in job orders throughout the first quarter. Travelers were scrambling to find jobs, and agencies were nervous. We noted that early registrations for exhibitors at TravCon were slow. In May, when attendee registration opened, we noted that this was also slower than usual. With the uncertainty surrounding potential healthcare legislation and the unrelenting threat of repealing the ACA, hospitals were being cautious and we were all a little worried. We were all wondering "Is this the beginning of another recession?"

But by June, job orders had recovered and Q2 growth was in line with projections. Exhibitor and attendee registrations were back to normal. Now, as we approach the end of the year, agencies are reporting more job orders than they can fill. Many of the exhibitor spots for TravCon 2019 have already been reserved. Of course, agencies don't have a crystal ball, but strong early conference registration is an indicator of agency confidence in the coming year. 

2018 - Here we go!

What will the coming year mean for travelers? The implications of the new Tax Reform bill are not fully known, but we can assure travelers that there’s no need to panic. PanTravelers COO David Whitesell, RN has provided a tax reform update summarizing what we know to date. 

How about job orders and compensation? Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) conducts well-regarded proprietary research examining trends in temporary staffing, independent contracting, and other types of contingent labor. The Healthcare Staffing Summit is their annual conference that focuses on our segment of the workforce. We attended, and here’s some of what we learned:

SIA has projected that growth in U.S healthcare temporary staffing revenue will continue to increase throughout 2018 but at a slower rate. 2017 showed a very strong 17% growth, whereas 2018 is projected to deliver a still strong 8% growth.

Bill rates have shown steady if modest growth since 2012 and this trend is projected to continue in 2018. The last comprehensive bill rate survey was conducted by SIA in 2016. In that survey, the aggregate U.S. travel nurse bill rate was $73.88 per hour, with the average compensation (including wages, bonuses, payroll taxes, and all reimbursements) coming in at just over $50 per hour. The average gross profit margin for agencies is 25%. Compensation varies widely depending on the region, specialty, and season, but this is a big improvement from just a few years ago.

Although SIA’s projections look generally good for travelers over the next two years, there are some unknowns that could affect both demand and compensation for travelers. These include potential cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, destabilization of Healthcare Exchanges, and even a possible recession.

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