While the stresses and grief of the pandemic drove many hospital nurses to ditch their positions in favor of higher-paying opportunities as travel nurses, numerous hospitals report that many of these “boomerang nurses” are heading back to take on full-time positions.

For one thing, travel pay has declined steadily over the past several months; for another, many hospitals have begun to offer better benefits for full-time staff.

Tale of the Tape 

Alan Braynin, chief executive of travel nurse agency Aya Healthcare, says that the average pay for a travel nurse, in general, is down by 28% compared to the same time last year. Meanwhile, hospital demand for travel nurses went down by 51% as of Sunday, April 30th.

On the other hand, HCA Healthcare, the biggest publicly-traded hospital chain in the United States reported that nurse hiring was up by 19% in the first quarter of this year compared to the total average for 2022. At the same time, the company’s costs for travel nurses fell by 21% during Q1 compared to the same time last year.

Likewise, turnover levels have dropped within the neighborhood of pre-pandemic levels.

HCA noted that a number of nurses who resigned from their hospitals are actually heading back to work. As of late last year, approximately 20% of the 37,000 nurses the company hired previously worked for them between 2016 and 2023.

Relevant Cases

Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas recently rehired 60 of its nurses who left for different reasons during the pandemic. The move has been seen as a boon to the hospital in terms of ensuring more beds are available as demand for hospital bed space has gone up by 8%.

In order to bring their nurses back, Houston Methodist began offering higher wages and a number of new benefits for nursing staff, including childcare and more flexible shift schedules.

Non-profit healthcare provider Sentara Healthcare drew its nurses back with a combination of better pay and more flexible schedules. According to its regional vice-president Terrie Edwards, Sentara boosted nurses’ wages by 21% over the past couple of years, and now offers student debt relief up to $10,000, along with adoption benefits and even infertility benefits for those seeking to start families. 

As a result, Sentara rehired around 400 boomerang nurses, a move that has greatly reduced staff overtime and reduced travel nurse expenses by 50%