Need a COVID-19 nurse? It will be $ 8,000 per week


She tells her employers to remember to “suck it up” to her and her colleagues as they each struggled to take care of the six patients and taped their protective gear with tape until they were completely Do not fall apart. The $ 800 or a week he took home no longer seemed worth it.

“I couldn’t sleep and had the most anxiety in my life,” Tripeni said. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to go where my skills are needed and I can be guaranteed that I need my protection.”

In April, she packed her bags for a two-month contract at Kovid’s Hot Spot New Jersey, a “mass exodus” of nurses who became suburban Denver hospital dropout nurses . His new salary? About $ 5,200 a week, and with a contract that requires adequate protective gear.

Months later, Prasad – and the stakes – owe even more to the willingness to move nurses. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nurses can earn more than $ 6,200 a week. A recent posting for a job in Fargo, North Dakota, offered more than $ 8,000 a week. Some can be as much as $ 10,000.

At the onset of the epidemic, hospitals competed for ventilators, covid tests and personal protective equipment. Now, sites across the country are competing for nurses. The decline in Kovid cases has turned hospital staff into a kind of national dialect war, with nurses in hospitals willing to pay exorbitant wages to meet their needs. This leaves rural and urban public hospitals in small staffed areas, leading to an epidemic and leaving some hospitals unable to care for seriously ill patients.
“It’s a huge threat,” said Angelina Salazar, CEO of Western Healthcare Alliance, a consortium of 29 small hospitals in rural Colorado and Utah. “There is no way that rural hospitals can offer that kind of salary.”

Increased capacity

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Hospitals have long relied on traveling nurses to fill nurses without hiring them. Early in the epidemic, doctors and nurses traveled to hot spots from unaffected areas such as California, Washington State, and New York to help with regional areas. But now, medical professionals facing growth in virtually every part of the country have been infected in the process – competition for the finite number of available nurses is becoming more intense.

“We all thought, ‘Well, when it’s Colorado’s turn, we’ll draw on the same resources; we’ll call the states around us and they’ll send help,” said Julie Lomborg, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association. “Now it’s a national outbreak. It’s not just one or two spots, as it was in the spring. It’s really important across the country, which means everyone is looking for those resources.”

In North Dakota, Tessa Johnson said she is receiving several messages a day on LinkedIn from headhunters. Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, said the epidemic is closing the brain drain of nurses there. They suspect North Dakota may choose to leave nurses or retire early after the move. Doug Bergam told health care workers that they could remain on the job even if tested positive for COVID-19.

Jordan Sorenson, a project manager at the Utah Hospital Association, said that all of Utah’s major health care systems have left nurses to visit nurses.

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“Nurses quit jobs, join travel nursing companies and work for a different hospital down the road, at a rate of two to three times.” “So, this is really a kind of Rob-Peter-to-Pay-Paul staffing situation.”

Sorenson said that hospitals not only pay the high salaries paid to the traveling nurses, but also pay commissions to the travel nurses agency. Utah hospitals are trying to avoid hiring nurses from other hospitals in the state. Renting from a neighboring state such as Colorado, however, may mean Colorado hospitals move out of Utah.

Adam Seth Litwin, an associate in industrial and labor relations at Cornell University, said, “In view of the current spike in COVID hospitals, it makes sense to call registered nurses into the labor market for ‘severed throats’.” “Even if the health care sector can somehow get more beds, it can’t just go out and buy more front-line carers.”

Litwin said he is looking into the labor market rewarding essential workers. Under normal circumstances, the market allows it to determine where people will work and for which salaries are ideal.

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“On the other hand, we are not operating under normal conditions,” he said. “In the midst of a serious public health crisis, I worry that personal incentives in front of hospitals on the one hand and individual RNs on the other conflict increasingly with the needs of society as a whole.”

Some hospitals are looking for ways to overcome staffing challenges without blowing up the budget. This may involve changing the nurse-to-patient ratio, although this will affect patient care. In Utah, the Hospital Association has spoken with the state nursing board to allow nursing students to become certified early in their final year of training.

Development industry

Meanwhile, business is booming for companies focused on health care staffing such as Wanderley and Crucial Staffing.

“When COVID first started and New York was an epicenter, we looked wanderly and said, ‘Well, this is our time to shine,” said David Dean, senior vice president of Wanderly, a website that is for health . Take care of professionals to compare offers from different agencies. “It is our time to help nurses get to these sites as soon as possible. And help recruiters get those nurses.”

Dean said the company has doubled its workforce since the epidemic began. Demand is on the rise – with the Rocky Mountain states appearing as job postings on the site several times until January. More people are meeting that demand.

In 2018, according to data from a national survey, about 31,000 visiting nurses worked nationwide. Now, Dean estimates, there are at least 50,000 travel nurses. Dean, who calls travel nurses “superheroes”, suspects that many of them are postoperative nurses, who were laid off when their hospitals stopped performing elective surgeries during the first lockdown.
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Competition for nurses, especially those with ICU experience, is stiff. After all, a hospital in South Dakota is not competing with facilities in other states.

“We have sent nurses to Aruba, Bahamas and Curacao because they need help with COVID,” Dean said. “You’re going there, you’re making $ 5,000 a week and all your expenses are paid, right? Who’s going to say no, yeah?”

Crucial staffing specializes in sending health care workers to disaster locations, using military care-style logistics. It hired hotels and dozens of buses to get nurses to hot spots in New York and Texas. CEO Brian Cleary said that, since the epidemic began, the company has increased its administrative staff from 12 to 200.

“Right now we are at our highest volume,” Cleary said, adding that nearly 1,000 nurses joined the roster of “reservoir” over the Halloween weekend alone.

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With a base rate of $ 95 per hour, he said, some nurses working overtime are coming away with $ 10,000 a week, though there are downsides, like the fact that the gig doesn’t come with health insurance and is unstable. , Boom- and bust markets.

hidden costs

Amber Hazard, who lives in Texas, started as a traveling ICU nurse before the epidemic and said that eye-catching sums come with hidden fees like this, paid in chastity.

“How your soul is affected by this, there is nothing you can put a price on,” he said.

In a high-paying job caring for COVID patients during New York’s first wave, she remembers walking into the break room at a hospital in the Bronx and seeing a sign on the wall about how the general staff nurse was on strike.

“It said, you know, ‘We’re not doing this. It’s not safe,” Hazard said. “And it was not safe. But someone had to do it.”

The charm of his stature was putting a wedding ring back on the finger of a recovered patient. But Hazard said he secured more body bags than rings on patients.

Tripeni, a traveling nurse leaving Colorado, is now working with heart surgery patients in Kentucky. When that contract ends, she said, she can dive back into COVID care.

Earlier, in New Jersey, she was terrified of the times she could not give people the care they needed, not to mention the time she would take a dead patient from a ventilator, damage to the virus. Will, as she removes the tube. Filled with black blood from lungs.

Unlike when he was on staff at a hospital, he has to pay for mental health therapy. But as a so-called traveler, she knows that each gig will end in a few weeks.

At the end of each week in New Jersey, she said, “I’ll just look at my salary and ‘OK. It’s fine. I can do that.”

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a non-profit news service covering health issues. This is an editorial independent program KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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