<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=533196430122665&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

2023 Travel Nurse Wage Trends Year-End Review

Travel wages for registered nurses (RNs) underwent a major transition in 2023. This year saw travel nursing salaries descend from the heights created by the COVID-19 pandemic before flattening out into what might be described as a “new normal” in the latter half of the year.

In recent years, travel wages rode a pandemic-induced rollercoaster. They shot up in 2020 as hospitals filled with patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Then travel pay bobbed up and down in 2021 and 2022, based on short-term surges in cases, including periods in 2022 when a combination of outbreaks of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections severe enough to warrant a hospital visit resulted in what was dubbed a “tridemic.” Ultimately, wages ended 2022 down 15.1% from the start of that year as COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped significantly.

In 2023, average weekly travel nurse wages fell another 11.3% nationwide, but most of that drop was in the first five months of the year. Following the end of the pandemic health emergency (PHE) in May 2023, travel nursing salaries began to flatten in subsequent months. In December 2023, they fell only 0.1%, translating to a 1.2% annualized rate of decline.

2023 Wage Trends Recap-1

The average weekly travel RN pay from December 2022 to December 2023 for all 50 states.

Overview of Fluctuations in Travel Wages

As of the end of December 2023, the nationwide average travel nursing salary was $2,414 compared to $2,722 in December 2022. Despite the year’s wage declines, travel nurses are still ahead of the pay rates offered just before COVID-19 first struck America’s shores. In January 2020, nationwide travel nursing wages averaged $2,257 per week when adjusted for inflation to today’s dollars ($1,896 unadjusted).

The following table provides a quick overview of how many states recorded increased, decreased or stable pay by month throughout 2023. It also shows the most significant increases and decreases and each month’s average weekly wage nationwide. While the table offers the big picture, we’ll dive deeper into the data to give you more details about healthcare travel pay shifts and touch on our predictions for 2024.

In the table below, we count states that saw wage fluctuations of less than 1% up or down during the month as having “remained the same.”


# States Pay Rose

Largest Increase

# States Pay Fell

Largest Decrease

# Stayed the Same

Avg National Wage

% Change from Previous Month

































































































January 2023

Despite cold-weather waves of influenza, RSV and COVID-19 hitting parts of the country, January experienced decreases in travel nursing salaries that would set the initial trend for 2023. That month, 19 states saw pay decreases of 1% or more, and January’s average national wage fell 0.3% to $2,713 from $2,722 in December 2022.

The fact that this period of increased respiratory infections didn’t boost nurse travel wages provides evidence of the efforts by health systems during 2023 to boost units with staff hires rather than relying too heavily on travel nurses. This shift continued throughout the year.

February 2023

February 2023 marked the start of a period from winter through spring in which travel nurse pay declines accelerated markedly. Pay dropped by 1.6% during the shortest month of the year, more than five times larger than the decrease in January, and 32 states experienced wage decreases of 1% or more.

This month, the Biden administration announced a roadmap to transition the nation’s health system out of the pandemic health emergency (PHE) by May. February’s reported COVID cases had dropped 92% and hospitalizations by 80% compared to the peak of the Omicron wave 13 months prior in January 2022.

March 2023

During March 2023, the drop in national average travel nurse wages reached its fastest pace of the year at 3.1%, almost twice the magnitude of the decrease in February. In total, a whopping 39 states experienced wage decreases of 1% or more, with Pennsylvania entering double-digit territory with a significant decline of 10%. With wage decreases slowing after March, this month can be seen as an inflection point in which travel RN salaries began transitioning from the COVID-19 era toward the new normal.

April 2023

April 2023 continued the rapid fall in travel nurse wages, but the 2.3% decline nationwide was still smaller than the previous month. Only three states eked out a wage increase of 1% or more, while 33 states recorded decreases of 1% or greater. During this month, we noted results from our Future of Healthcare Work Report 2023, which found that 46% of travel nurses were considering shifting back into full-time staff roles.

May 2023

National average compensation for travel nurses fell another 1.6% in May, as the U.S. healthcare system transitioned into an official post-COVID or “new normal” era. The government’s PHE, first enacted on January 31, 2020, officially ended on May 11, 2023, suspending various supplemental federal healthcare spending programs and special rules related to COVID-19.

During this month, Utah saw a particularly steep wage decline of 10.5%, the only state to reach a double-digit decrease. However, May marked the last time in 2023 that national average travel RN wages would fall more than 1.0% in a given month. With wages in May averaging $2,488, the final month of the PHE saw travel wages still 10.2% higher than the January 2020 inflation-adjusted salary of $2,257 when the PHE began. 

June 2023

In the first full month post-PHE, declines in monthly pay dipped below 1.0%, where they would remain for the rest of the year. A growing group of states experienced relatively flat wages for the month. Still, many hospitals continued shifting from travel workers to focus on plumping their permanent, full-time healthcare workforce. These efforts saw travel nurse pay continue to decrease, albeit at a slower pace. 

July 2023

What appeared to be a soft landing for travel nurse wages continued to emerge in July, with salaries falling a modest 0.7%. For the first month of the year, 10 states boasted wage gains greater than 1%. Meanwhile, 26 states still saw significant wage decreases, with Alaska leading the pack with a 7.2% pay decline.

August 2023

Echoing July, August 2023 also saw wages fall a modest 0.7% while 10 states once again marked wage increases of 1% or more. Connecticut led the group of the 22 states that witnessed significant wage decreases. However, Connecticut's fall was just 4.2%, compared to Alaska’s drop of 7.2% in July.

September 2023

Falling travel nurse wages finally abated, albeit briefly, in September 2023, with a 0% change in national average salaries from the previous month. This month provided the strongest indication yet of a soft landing for travel nurse wages for the year. It was also the first month in 2023 in which the number of states experiencing significant wage increases (11) was roughly the same as the number experiencing significant wage decreases (12). In fact, most states (27) saw wages stay relatively flat, with fluctuations of less than 1%  in either direction compared to the month prior.

October 2023

Wage decreases returned in October and for the rest of 2023, albeit at much lower rates than earlier in the year. The month famous for Halloween recorded a nationwide average wage decrease of just 0.3%. Exactly half of the states saw wages stay relatively flat. Of the 18 states that experienced falling wages, Mississippi stood out with a notable 7.6% drop in average travel RN pay.

November 2023

November 2023 saw wages decrease by a modest 0.2%. Similar to September, travel salaries in more than half of the states stayed within a narrow band of less than 1% up or down. Meanwhile, 10 states recorded significant wage increases, led by Rhode Island with a 4.9% pay spike.

December 2023

The year ended with nationwide average travel nursing salaries nearly flat, with a decrease of just 0.1%, translating to a 1.2% annualized rate of decline. Twelve states experienced a significant wage increase, the largest group for any month in 2023, with Utah ahead of the rest with a 4.9% increase. Tennessee led the pack of 14 states experiencing significant drops in pay, falling 2.4%. However, of all the states with the largest wage decline in a given month, Tennessee’s December salary decline was the smallest of 2023.

States Recording YoY Wage Increases

Frame 33

Due to the rapid wage decreases early in the year, only three states – Alaska, Utah and Florida – were able to eke out a year-over-year wage increase by the end of 2023 compared to 2022. In Florida’s case, that increase was a mere 0.2% to $2,119 in December 2023, keeping it well below the national average wage of $2,414 that month. However, the extreme popularity of the fair-weathered Sunshine State could persuade many travel nurses to work there at below-average wages.

Alaska and Utah came out better with year-over-year wage increases of 3.0% and 1.9%, respectively. At average wages of $2,899 and $2,556, those two states reached the end of 2023 above the national pay average. We’ve noted that Alaska’s economy was turbocharged this year by a record-high oil royalty check sent to every state resident. Moreover, the state’s cold weather and high cost of living mean facilities there must pay a significant premium to woo travel workers. 


Highest Month & Amount

Lowest Month & Amount

December 2022 Wage

December 2023 Wage

YoY % Change


May / $2,970

July / $2,668





Jan / $2,667

June / $2,272





Aug / $2,239

Jan / $2,111




Top 5 States That Saw Wage Decreases

Per Vivian's salary data, the average healthcare travel wage nationwide dropped year-over-year by 11.3% from December 2022 to December 2023. However, five states stood out with decreases of 15.0% or more: Pennsylvania, Mississippi, North Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming.

Pennsylvania had the most significant drop in travel wages, at negative 21.3%. Weekly salaries averaged $2,915 in December 2022 but dropped almost every month, reaching $2,294 by December 2023, moving the Keystone state from well above the national average to well below it. 


Highest Month & Amount

Lowest Month & Amount

Dec 2022 Wage

Dec 2023 Wage

YoY % Change


Jan / $2,860

Dec / $2,294





Jan / $2,428

Nov / $1,981




North Dakota

Jan / $2,880

June / $2,415





Jan / $2,610

Nov / $2,249





March / $3,058

Dec / $2,438




2024 Healthcare Staffing Outlook

While travel pay has leveled off for the most part and isn’t nearly as high as it was during the height of the pandemic, it remains above pre-pandemic amounts. Travel RN wages are also often much higher than staff salaries, keeping the role financially alluring. On the one hand, the higher pay continues to offer nurses an unprecedented opportunity to explore various parts of the United States while being well compensated. Conversely, higher travel staffing costs continue to prompt health systems to redouble their efforts in hiring for full-time staff positions instead.

While no month in 2023 was able to mount an uptick in nationwide average travel nurse wages, we suspect the situation could be different in 2024. Overall, travel nurse pay is likely to stay on a more flat trajectory for 2024. Despite travel nursing salaries having cooled substantially, they’re likely to respond to other significant long-term staffing trends in the coming year(s), such as the retirement of older generations of nurses, the shrinking size of graduating classes of new nurses due to a lack of nurse educators and the higher levels of nurse immigration to the United States.

Meanwhile, ongoing strong demand from clinicians for pay transparency should drive more states and hospitals to embrace better visibility regarding healthcare salaries. Several states or cities already have some type of pay transparency law in effect. Contrary to some beliefs, research has emerged that indicates pay transparency doesn’t necessarily drive up wages.

Hire your perm and travel staff, including nurses in every specialty, allied health professionals and advanced practice providers on Vivian Health to help you meet your current and future staffing needs.

Average salary data for each month are based on travel RN jobs posted on Vivian Health during the complete month for which they were reported.

Michael Hines

Michael Hines

Michael Hines is a freelance researcher and writer based in Brooklyn, New York. For 20 years he has written on various healthcare topics including healthcare employment, telemedicine, healthcare legislation, obesity, immunotherapy, and genomics. He also writes on topics such as technology and AI, public policy, finance and investing, consumer products, and corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices.

Want new articles every week? Subscribe now

See how Vivian can help you meet your hiring goals

Schedule a demo