RN jobs were subject to significant pay increases during March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though most of us would agree that the pandemic is bad news, higher pay for nurses is at least one of the few silver linings found in what has been mostly a crippling situation.
Pay increases demonstrate how basic supply-side economics affect nursing jobs. Like any other job, nursing commands certain pay and benefits based on industry demand. If demand goes up while supply remains flat or falls, pay and benefits improve. Job listings on sites like Health Jobs Nationwide reflect that reality.
By the Numbers
Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reported on March 19 that average weekly pay for registered nurses had increased to more than $3000. The nationwide average prior to the onset of COVID-19 was $1700. It is important to note that most of the pay increases relate to jobs in which registered nurses interact directly with coronavirus patients.
It is also worth noting that pay increases vary by state. SIA says that registered nurses were subject to a 90% pay increase in Washington while their counterparts in California have seen 60% higher pay. Washington is one of the most affected states in the West whereas California has seen significantly less COVID-19 activity.
Most Demanded Nurses
Data also reveals that certain types of registered nurses are in higher demand. For example, the highest demand appears to be in intensive care units. That goes without saying. The most severely ill COVID-19 patients end up in ICU as long as there are available beds. Nurses with ICU experience are coveted by hospitals at this time.
Emergency department nurses who specialize in infection control are also in high demand. Their pay doubled to $4,000 per week during the same period in March. That just goes to show how valuable emergency department nurses are. There are simply not enough to meet the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Where We Go from Here
While the nursing shortage has been apparent for some years now, nursing jobs have truly come under the spotlight in the wake of COVID-19. Nurses are at the front lines, helping to treat sick patients while simultaneously working to stop the spread of the virus. They could very well be the hardest working professionals in healthcare right now. The question is, where do we go from here?
The pandemic will eventually run its course. Emergency departments and ICUs will discharge patients and return to pre-COVID-19 levels. What will happen to nurses and the higher pay they received during the crisis? It is likely pay will once again fall for the simple fact that nurses will not be putting in so much overtime.
On the other hand, the nation’s nurses would love nothing more than for the COVID-19 pandemic to cause hospital administrators to realize just how valuable their services are. They would love to be able to hold onto that higher pay even when the crisis has passed.
New Emphasis on Locums
The pandemic has also shined the spotlight on locum tenens nurses who have been working valiantly to plug as many holes as they can. Also known as travel nurses, locums are coming to the rescue in hot spots like New York City, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Hospitals have put out the call and travel nurses have responded.
We don’t know where nursing jobs will end up after all of this is over. We do know that nurses will not be any less valuable to the health and well-being of the nation. Let us hope the industry remembers that.