The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis in the nursing staffing, causing many U.S. hospitals and clinics to spend astronomical amounts to help handle the influx of patients this summer.
According to health leaders, the problem is twofold. First, nurses are leaving or retiring due to exhaustion or depression. Many are also leaving to find lucrative temporary work with travel-nurse agencies, which can pay $5,000 per week.
It has reached the point that doctors say, “Maybe, I should quit being an doctor and go to nursing,” Dr. Phillip Coule, chief physician at Georgia’s Augusta University Medical Center said. He had seen up to 30 resignations from nurses who were taking on traveling jobs, and he was not surprised.
Coule stated, “And then we must pay premium rates in order to get staff members from other states to come to our country.”
Sophia Morris, vice president of Aya Healthcare, San Diego-based healthcare staffing company, stated that the average salary for a traveling nurse has increased from about $1,000 to $2,000 per work week prior to the pandemic to $3,000 and $5,000 now. According to her, Aya currently has 48,000 open positions for nurses who are traveling.
James Quick, president of SimpliFi, stated that hospitals his company partners with have unprecedented levels of vacant positions.
He said that small to medium-sized hospitals have many full-time positions, while large health systems have hundreds.
Hospitals without sufficient resources have been hit hard by the explosion in salaries.
Kansas Gov. Kansas Governor
Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, Missouri has lost approximately 10 travel nurses in recent days. They are now looking for replacements, according to CEO Charlie Shields.
He stated that it was difficult to compete with travel agencies who charge hospitals $165 to $170 per hour for a nurse. Although he acknowledged that the travel agencies take a large cut, he said that nurses still make $70 to $90 per hour. This is twice to three times the amount the hospital pays for its staff nurses.
Shields stated that “I believe clearly people are taking advantage” of the demand. I hate to use the term “gouged” as a description but it is clear that we are paying a premium, which allows people to make high profits.
More than 6,000 Texas travel nurses are flooding the state in an effort to support the state’s surge. However, 19 of them arrived at a northern Texas hospital to begin their workday. Twenty other nurses working at the same facility gave notice that they were leaving for a contract.