Travel nurses took high-paying jobs during the Covid pandemic. But now far away from home, many are finding their salaries cut, sometimes in half, at renewal time.
A series of lawsuits are pushing back.
The boom in travel nursing during Covid exposed a practice that has existed since the industry began 50 years ago. Only when salaries have been cut at times of renewal began to realize the wiggle room contained in their signed contracts, which were really “at-will” work agreements.
But the sheer number of nurses working travel jobs, and the difference between what they thought was promised and what they pocketed, has led to a substantial legal pushback by travel nurses around the country on the issue.
A law firm in Kansas City, Missouri has filed a class-action lawsuit against four travel nurse agencies.
Steve Siegel Hanson filed suits against Arya, Maxim, NuWest, and Cross Country over the summer. As of today, they are all still pending.
Lead attorney Austin Moore said the suits allege the companies pulled a “bait-and-switch,” offering nurses agreements at high rates and then slashing their pay after they’ve signed.
Many of the alleged incidents occurred in March and April when the demand for travel nurses, which soared during the pandemic, began to drop.
“To go take a travel assignment is a really big deal, and to get there to have the rug pulled out from under you, for someone to collapse your pay, I just think it’s unconscionable,” Moore said. “They’re on the hook for a lease, and they’re scrambling trying to find another job, and it’s a really terrible set of circumstances.”
Travel nursing became prevalent during Covid. Prior to the pandemic, there had already been a growing shortage of nurses across the United States. Covid made that shortage even worse.
Agencies started offering nurses work agreements and renewals that extended far beyond the typical 13 weeks.
In January 2020, right before the pandemic, there were about 50,000 travel nurses nationwide, or about 1.5 percent of the nation’s registered nurses, according to an industry research firm, Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA). That number doubled to at least 100,000 as Covid spread, but according to SIA, the actual number at the peak of the pandemic may have been much higher.