Traveling COVID-19 nurses are hard to find, expensive – Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado 2020-11-26 08:00:53 –

By Markian Hawryluk and Rae Ellen Bichel, Kaiser Health News

Denver — In March, Claire Tripenny saw her dream job collapse. She worked as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood and loved it despite the mediocre wages typical of the area. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed.

She remembers the employer telling her and her colleagues to “suck up” because they had a hard time caring for each of the six patients and taped the protective equipment until it completely collapsed. I will. I felt that the $ 800 a week she brought home was no longer worth it.

“I wasn’t sleeping and I was the most anxious in my life,” Tripenny said. “I’m going where my skills are needed and I’m sure I’ll get the protection I need.”

In April, she packed a two-month contract bag at the then COVID Hotspot New Jersey as part of what is called a “mass spill” of nurses leaving a hospital outside Denver to become travel nurses. Her new salary? For about $ 5,200 a week, there are contracts that require proper protective equipment.

After a few months, the offerings and stakes will be even higher for nurses wishing to move. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nurses can earn over $ 6,200 a week. A recent post about work in Fargo, North Dakota provided over $ 8,000 a week. Some people cost as much as $ 10,000.

In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals were competing for ventilators, COVID tests, and personal protective equipment. Currently, sites across the country are competing for nurses. The surge in COVID cases has transformed hospital staffing into a sort of national bidding war, and hospitals are prepared to pay exorbitant wages to secure the necessary nurses. This could shift the supply of nurses to wealthier areas, and as the pandemic worsens, there will be a shortage of public hospitals in rural and urban areas, and some hospitals will be unable to care for critically ill patients.

“This is a big threat,” said Angelina Salazar, CEO of the Western Healthcare Alliance, a consortium of 29 small hospitals in rural Colorado and Utah. “There is no way a local hospital can afford to pay that kind of salary.”

Surge capacity

Hospitals have long relied on travel nurses to bridge staffing gaps without promising long-term employment. In the early days of the pandemic, doctors and nurses moved from unaffected areas to hotspots such as California, Washington, and New York to help the area grow. But now there is a surge in almost every part of the country, in the process infecting healthcare professionals. The competition for a limited number of available nurses is intensifying.

“We all thought,’When it’s Colorado’s turn, we’ll use the same resources.’ We will call the surrounding states and they will send help, “said Julie Lomborg, a spokesman for the Colorado Hospital Association. “Now it’s a national outbreak. It’s not just one or two spots like in spring. It’s really important across the country. That means everyone is looking for those resources.”

Tessa Johnson of North Dakota said she receives multiple messages a day from headhunters on LinkedIn. Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, said the pandemic seems to be accelerating the brain drain of nurses there. More nurses retire early or retire after North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum tells healthcare professionals that they can continue to work even if they test positive for COVID-19. I think I might choose.

Jordan Sorenson, project manager for the Utah Hospital Association, has seen nurses take on the role of traveling nurses in all four major healthcare systems in Utah.

“Nurses quit, joined a traveling nursing company, worked in another hospital on the street, and doubled or tripled,” he said. “So it’s really a kind of robbery-Peter to Pay-Paul staffing situation.”

According to Sorenson, hospitals not only pay the high salaries offered to travel nurses, but also commission travel nurse agencies. Utah hospitals are trying to avoid hiring nurses from other hospitals in the state. However, employment from neighboring states, such as Colorado, can mean that Colorado hospitals are poaching from Utah.

Adam Seth Ritwin, an associate professor of labor relations at Cornell University, said: “It is a conservative term to call the registered nurse labor market a” cut throat “because of the surge in hospitalizations due to COVID. “Even if the healthcare department somehow finds more beds, it can’t just go out and buy more front-line caregivers.”

Ritwin said he was happy to see the labor market rewarding essential workers: women and people with disproportionately high wages. Under normal circumstances, the market allows people to decide where they work and what wages are ideal.

“On the other hand, we are not operating under normal circumstances,” he said. “In the midst of a serious public health crisis, I am worried that the individual incentives faced by one hospital and the individual RNs of the other may be in fierce conflict with the needs of society as a whole. “

Some hospitals are looking for ways to overcome staffing challenges without wasting budget. This can include changing the ratio of nurses to patients, which can affect patient care. In Utah, the Hospital Association is discussing with the State Nursing Commission to allow nursing students in the final year of training to be certified early.

Growth industry

Meanwhile, the business of companies such as Wanderly and Krucial Staffing, centered on healthcare staff, is booming.

“When COVID first started and New York was the epicenter, we saw it on Wanderly and said,’OK, it’s time to shine,'” said a health-enabled website. David Deane, Senior Vice President of Wanderly, said. Care professionals compare offers from different institutions. “Now is the time to help nurses reach these destinations as soon as possible, and help recruiters get those nurses.”

According to Dean, the company has doubled its staff since the pandemic began. Demand is skyrocketing. Rocky Mountain states appear on the site up to 20 times more job listings than in January. And more and more people are meeting that demand.

According to data from the 2018 National Survey, about 31,000 travel nurses were working nationwide. Currently, Dean estimates that there are at least 50,000 travel nurses. Dean, who calls travel nurses “superheroes,” suspect that many of them are post-operative nurses who were dismissed when the hospital stopped selective surgery during the initial blockade.
The competition for nurses, especially those with ICU experience, is fierce. After all, South Dakota hospitals aren’t just competing with facilities in other states.

“We needed the help of COVID, so we sent nurses to Aruba, the Bahamas, and Curacao,” Dean said. “You go there, make $ 5,000 a week and pay all the money, right? Who’s going to say yes?”

Krucial Staffing specializes in sending healthcare professionals to disaster sites using military-style logistics. It filled the hotel and rented dozens of buses to take nurses to hotspots in New York and Texas. CEO Brian Cleary says the company’s administrative staff has grown from 12 to over 200 since the pandemic began.

“Now we have the highest amount we’ve ever had,” said Cleary, who added about 1,000 nurses to the “reserve” roster on Halloween weekend alone.

Despite the drawbacks of gigs not being covered by health insurance and the fact that they are a volatile boom, some overtime nurses have a base rate of $ 95 per hour and 10,000 per week. He said some people would come back in dollars. And the bust market.

Hidden cost

Amber Hazard, who lives in Texas, started as an ICU nurse on a trip before the pandemic and said that such eye-catching amounts come with hidden fees and are paid sanely.

“How this affects your soul is not something you can pay for,” she said.

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