Wages for travel nurses in long-term care facilities continue to rise along with demand, as providers contend with state staffing mandates and an anticipated federal minimum. 

The average weekly pay for a travel nurse in a nursing home for the month of June was $2,310, a month-over-month increase of 3.34%, according to a report from Vivian Health. Similarly, the pay for travel nurses in skilled nursing facilities averaged $1,979 in June for a month-over-month increase of 3.22%, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

Nursing homes and SNFs were two of the 10 specialties for travel nurses that saw an increase in wages, the report said. The average weekly wage for a clinical nurse coordinator in June was $2,222.05 – a 5.62% month-over-month increase. A traveling trauma nurse’s weekly pay in June averaged $2,307.37 – a 3.93% month-over-month increase. 

While there are signs that cost increases are slowing, state staffing mandates and the potential for a national rule are driving up demand in skilled nursing. 

“Experts knew a significant shortage of registered nurses was looming even before the pandemic,” an April blog post on a state-by-state analysis of nursing shortages on Vivian.com stated. “It just exacerbated a situation already on the brink of being dire. Over the next few years, some states may feel the impact of nursing shortages more than others, but a surprising number may actually end up with a registered nurse surplus.”

The blog notes that projections from the Health Resources & Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Workforce indicate a surplus of 16,180 registered nurses in 2035, but acknowledges that the data is from 2020 and the full impact of the pandemic remains to be seen. The bureau estimates there will be a national shortage of 78,610 full-time equivalent RNs in 2025. 

At least 11 states have started looking into whether temporary staffing agencies are price-gouging nursing homes and other healthcare facilities based on how prices jumped during the pandemic. 

Oregon is the latest state to set a cap on how much staffing agencies can charge, but new rules don’t kick in until Jan. 1, 2025. The state’s Health Authority will establish rates based on several categories such as the geographic region and type of setting, LeadingAge Oregon CEO Kristin Milligan told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Thursday. 

Healthcare providers in Iowa have reported that base agency hourly rates were up by as much as 40% since 2020, and in Pennsylvania, rates are up by as much as 200% to 400% what they were prepandemic, according to a report from Kaiser. 

As reported  by McKnight’s, Leading Age and the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living have made requests to the Federal Trade Commission to look into “anticompetitive practices and pricing gouging of nurse-staffing agencies.” Nebraska is considering eliminating buyout costs for facilities that want to hire agency nurses full-time, and legislation introduced in Missouri would slap staffing agencies that “substantially” increase their costs during a declared emergency with felony charges, per previous reporting by McKnight’s

The average weekly pay for travel nurses in June was $2,466, which is down 8.56% from June 2022, according to Vivian Health. The average weekly pay in June 2022 for travel nurses was $2,697. 

Yesterday, New York state began enforcing its staffing mandate, requiring 3.5 hours of direct care per patient per day. Facilities could face fines of up to $2,000 per day for being out of compliance, but LeadingAge New York has said that 75% of nursing homes do not have enough staff to meet the new rule.

The sector also is still waiting for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to roll out its staffing mandate.While many providers have reduced their agency dependence since the height of the pandemic, some have told McKnight’s they will be forced to rehire more expensive temporary workers to patch holes and keep the doors open when minimums kick in.