Before COVID-19 hit, hospitals were already facing nursing shortages, and now this trend has been exacerbated by the pandemic and feelings of burnout.
As hospitals struggle to retain their staff, the demand for travel nurses — registered nurses who bounce from hospitals to clinics and other healthcare facilities across the world on short-term contracts — has boomed. One of the main reasons for this can be attributed to their pay, which can sometimes reach up to $10,000 per week — a far cry from their $70,000 average yearly salary in rural areas.
Recently, Alex Kim, a registered pediatric hematology and oncology nurse who made the switch from holding a stationed nursing position to becoming a travel nurse, went viral for candidly sharing the difference between his paychecks before and after the change.
In the video, which has been viewed over 3.7 million times, Alex explains, "I just got my first travel paycheck today. I'm going to show you how much that was and how it compares to being a staff nurse."
"Just so that we can compare, this is what I made as a staff nurse," he continued while displaying a screenshot of his paycheck behind him. "I made $827 per week."
"And this is what I make right now as a travel nurse," he concluded. "It is $3,627 after taxes, and this is every single week. So, it's pretty insane."
When speaking to the 24-year-old about why he decided to become a travel nurse, Alex told BuzzFeed, "Before this, I was living paycheck to paycheck [and] the thought of saving money was just a pipe dream. With my previous position, I also worked an additional two jobs working in outpatient surgery centers for extra cash. I never had time to see my friends or to even go on a vacation since starting my career as a nurse."
On average, a travel nurse will be assigned to one particular location for about 13 weeks before moving on, which can make the position difficult for those with families or a deep connection to home. For Alex, though, he's not looking back.
In the past, Alex said he struggled to get time off requests approved and felt both overworked and underpaid — a sentiment reflected in the comment section of his video, where users say his stationed salary was too little for the work of someone saving lives.
Besides the pay, Alex said that the pros to travel nursing include the freedom to take time off between contracts, the ability to sign up for contracts within a state, and having the opportunity to travel the country.
These pros and cons, as well as potentially unconsidered ins and outs of being a travel nurse, are exactly what inspire Alex to share his story on TikTok. "Getting true transparency on the important details about a person’s job can be difficult," he said. "When I was 17, I asked a friend who was a nurse about her pay and job duties of her work, but I would only get these very vague responses. I would go onto social media and watch videos of people talking about their career, but hit the same issue of this wall of vagueness."
And it does appear to be helping. Besides an unsurprising amount of shock over his take home pay, many commenters have questions about how they can get into nursing, what housing looks like, benefits packages, and more. So, if you have a question about travel nursing, ask Alex in the comments below, and his answer may be featured in an upcoming post.