STAT+: Travel nurses remain pricey, and it’s weighing on hospital profits

Expensive travel nurses dampened HCA’s profit outlook, which doesn’t bode well for the hospital sector. There are signs elevated nursing costs could be a permanent fixture in the industry.

An underwhelming first quarter at the country’s biggest hospital chain shows the pandemic’s stranglehold on labor costs is proving to be more stubborn than many had expected.

Investor-owned HCA Healthcare knocked down its full-year revenue and profit expectations on Friday, a move that sent shares tumbling and triggered a flurry of questions from analysts about its travel nurse spending. The Nashville-based hospital chain is a stock market darling that tends to dwarf its peers profit-wise, so its results don’t bode well for the rest of the sector.

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