A Single-Hospital Study of Travel Nurses and Quality: What is Their Impact on the Patient Experience?
May 1, 2017
Healthcare providers that cannot recruit and hire the number and type of nurses they need regularly turn to travel nurses to fill clinical needs. Continued high demand for nurses, particularly experienced and specialty nurses, is expected to sustain or increase the utilization of travel nurses in hospitals and other healthcare facilities for the foreseeable future. With patient care quality and experience among the top priorities in the healthcare industry, the quality of care delivered by travel nurses is critically important.
Temporary or supplemental nurses account for approximately 30% of the nursing workforce in the United States, yet travel nurses only make up about 1.5% - 2.0% of nurses in acute care settings. Travel nurses typically have a short-term contract period, usually 4, 13 or 26 weeks, and they often complete multiple assignments in different parts of the country. They may be integral in addressing immediate shortages of nurses, fluctuations in patient demand, and cost pressures. Upon receiving their unit assignment and orientation, the role of the travel nurse is to immediately assume direct patient care duties. There is often a perception that patient care by travel nurses is not as high quality as care by core staff, but there is no research evidence to support this belief. Therefore, it is important to understand the impact of travel nurses on the quality of patient care and on the patient experience.