A few corrections...The hospitals pay the travel nurses and the agencies around $75/h and UP when you figure in the nurses pay, the housing, utilities, travel, benefits such as insurance, disability, pension, etc. No joke. I am a former ICU travel nurse, travelled 10 years ago and got $21/h then. There are places that pay up to $30/h, but it is generally in the higher paying regions anyway, New York, cities in California, etc places with a high cost of living. I have a friend working in Denver with 16 years of experience making about $23/h on days, so if you add night diff and about $5/h more (close to what travellers generally make) the $30 isn't that off.. You also have to look at the whole package. Some companies pay more salary and less benefits, so it all actually comes out the same.
Our hospital has had to hire a lot of travellers, I don't know (and haven't asked) what they make. Of course it would make sense to pay their own staff more and give better benefits and generally give them respect and show appreciation, we probably wouldn't be so short staffed. But who knows? Our hospital just gave all RNs a $1.50 hour raise across the board and upped the diffs and stuff. Maybe they are beginning to figure it out.