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Misperceptions about travel nurses may be sabotaging your workforce strategy

Despite a recent, comprehensive study of nursing labor costs showing travel nurses actually cost hospitals less per hour than full-time permanent staff, misperceptions remain among many healthcare employers. It’s a misperception that may be sabotaging their overall workforce strategy.

According to KPMG’s 2017 U.S. Hospital Nursing Labor Costs study, travel nurses are less costly than permanent nurses when overtime pay, paid time off, retirement, insurance, recruitment incentives and payroll taxes are taken into account. Nationwide, the study estimates that a permanent, full-time registered costs $89 per hour, compared to $83 for a travel nurse.

And that’s just for direct costs. “Hidden costs,” including attrition, the time required to fill a permanent position and non-productive hours required for orientation and training can further widen the gap.

Average overtime hours

In short, the KPMG study shows base wages are an incomplete way to compare the cost of travelers vs. permanent nurses.

To help us understand why these misperceptions about the cost of travel nurses continue to exist, Qualivis enlisted the help of Hanover Research to conduct a focus group of in-depth interviews with a half-dozen hospital human resources leaders. Contrary to the KPMG findings, the HR directors generally estimate cost of travelers in their organization to be 20 percent to 50 percent more than permanent staff.

One reason is transparency. Employers can clearly see the difference between hourly wages. They clearly see a staffing agency’s upfront fees. They clearly see a short-term (13-week) commitment in the hiring contract.

They are less likely to take into account the time required to fill a vacancy, incentives such as bonuses or relocation expenses offered to permanent nurses for signing a contract, or the value of services provided by a staffing partner, such as initial screening and vetting of applicants, free technology for posting jobs or shared costs of orientation.

At Qualivis, a national provider of healthcare staffing and workforce solutions, we view travelers as one part of a smart, comprehensive workforce strategic plan.

  • Many hospitals are developing successful temp-to-perm transition programs. We help by allowing member hospitals to make a permanent hire after one assignment with no fee.
  • We offer compensation for no-shows or early terminations.
  • We do on-site visits with hospitals to understand their specific workforce needs and unique cultures, so that we can provide travel nurse candidates who are a good fit.
  • We provide up to 16 hours of orientation time at no cost to the hospital.
  • We recognize that it the number one factor when it comes to hiring nurses, so all of our affiliated agencies that provide nurses are certified by the Joint Commission for added quality and compliance assurance.

Qualivis is the preferred staffing partner for hospital associations in 13 states, serving nearly 400 healthcare facilities with simplified staffing processes and other workforce solutions. For more information, contact us at 803-995-8981 or info@qualivis.com.