Healthcare staffing revenue nearly three times higher than three years ago, future bright: Healthcare Staffing Summit

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November 04, 2021

Healthcare staffing revenue is projected to grow to nearly $25 billion this year — nearly three times the level it was in 2011. And while the pandemic has brought much change, the healthcare staffing industry is also undergoing a digital transformation, and the future looks bright.

That was the message delivered today by Staffing Industry Analysts President Barry Asin in his keynote speech kicking off the 2021 Healthcare Staffing Summit in Boston.

“I think you all have picked a great industry to be in,” Asin said. Not just from a business standpoint, but for what the industry does to benefit healthcare.

Looking at revenue growth, travel nurse revenue is leading the way with a forecast median growth of 40% this year, but growth is happening across the industry.

“We do think that crisis pay can’t go on forever,” Asin said. There will likely be some pullback in 2022, but he said the forecast for healthcare staffing revenue this year is probably understating growth given the volatility brought by the pandemic.

Still, he noted long-term dynamics point to a robust need for healthcare staffing going forward. They include an aging population, continued growth in healthcare spending, fewer uninsured and a remaining skilled labor shortage.

On the last point, the pandemic has taken the healthcare workforce shortage from “challenging” to “extremely challenging,” Asin said. There are 200,000 more job openings each month than new hires.

Covid-19 has also caused nurse staffing wages to spike. Citing data from Wanderly, he said the median per-hour pay rate for ICT travel nurses went to $99 this year from $48 in 2019.

Of course, the pandemic has also brought uncertainty.

“Pandemics have always changed human society; there are going to be huge changes that we don’t totally know yet,” Asin said. The bubonic plague of the 1300s was tragic, and that plague also caused huge labor shortages that ultimately contributed to the end of feudalism. “We don’t know what this pandemic is going to do but huge societal changes are nothing to be surprised about.”

One change is the rise of remote work — and even 31% of clinical jobs can be done from home.

Asin also discussed the digital transformation healthcare staffing undergoing. Already, 58% of revenue in travel nursing is going through an MSP.

What’s next? “One of the big changes is this growth in platforms,” Asin said. “What we are seeing is a real surge in platforms, particularly for nurses.”

“Platform” refers to software that facilitates a transaction in a two-sided relationship. In one example, Asin cited data from healthcare staffing firm Aya Healthcare that it had 7,508 travel nurses on assignment in the second quarter of 2020. Aya took its online platform out of beta at that time, and the number of travel nurses on assignment rose to 27,513 in September of this year.

With this automation, what will happen to recruiters?

“I for one don’t believe that recruiters are going away, not in the least,” he said. “But there is going to be a real change in what they do.”

With the routine, repetitive work out of the way, recruiters may be able to move on to a higher level of service. Another option is that recruiters will simply become much more productive.

And even with all the changes, Asin said he remains optimistic about the future.

“This industry — one of the great things about it — is just how dynamic and innovative it is.”

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