November 3, 2020 -- Hospitals and health care systems are struggling to find enough nurses to help during the pandemic, especially in rural locations and small hospitals, according to The Associated Press.
Experienced nurses are dealing with burnout, and new nurses are undergoing training to handle infectious disease cases. In addition, older nurses may face an increased risk of contracting the virus and having severe COVID-19, and younger nurses may have concerns about infecting their children and family at home, the AP reported.
“Who can actually work and who feels safe working are limited by family obligations to protect their own health,” Karen Donelan, a health policy professor at Brandeis University, told the news service.
To address the demand, some hospitals are recruiting short-term nurses who travel to the places that need help. Aspirus Health Care, which is based in Wisconsin, is offering a $15,000 signing bonus for nurses who have at least a year of experience. The health system is also hiring contract nurses through private staffing companies in anticipation of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. The system is shifting nurses between its five hospitals in Wisconsin and its four hospitals in Michigan as new coronavirus hotspots emerge, the AP reported.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers has issued an emergency order to allow nurses from other states to practice there, the AP reported. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is sending nurses to El Paso to help with the surge of coronavirus cases there. In North Dakota, officials may request government aid to hire more nurses if the pandemic worsens in the state.
Hospitals are competing nationwide, often from the same pool of nurses. Weekly pay ranges from $1,500 to $5,000 per week, April Hansen, executive vice president of Aya Healthcare, told the AP. The company recruits travel nurses, and its demand has doubled this year during the pandemic. The company has 20,000 openings for contract positions.
Placing nurses is “like a giant game of whack-a-mole,” she said.