“After 22 years, I’m calling it quits,” a south central Texas Registered Nurse declared. “This is insane. We don’t trust the CDC. We don’t trust the FDA and not many of us trust hospital administrators.”
“We know what is going on,” she continued. “Yet, they demand we take those God awful vaccines. I’m not. I’m leaving this insanity and don’t care how much money they throw at us.”
The American Nurses Association (ANA) has been urging the United States to declare the current nursing shortage a national crisis.
“The nation’s healthcare delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight,” Ernest Grant, PhD, RN, president of the ANA, said in a news release. “ANA stands ready to work with HHS and other stakeholders on a whole of government approach to ensure we have a strong nursing workforce today and in the future.”
🔹In December 2019, average total weekly wages for a travel nurse were about $1,600, according to data from healthcare recruiting company Vivian Health.
🔹By December 2020, the weekly average pay for travel nurses exceeded $3,500.
🔹Driven by winter cold and flu season, followed by the China COVID-19 Virus, and then forced experimental vaccinations, pay rates continue to increase.
🔹There are currently over 30,000 open travel nurse positions across the U.S., up about 30 percent from last winter’s peak.
🔹Paid in part by the Biden Administration’s federal emergency funding, some positions are seeing pay rates as high as $8,000 a week for a three-month assignment, according to Bloomberg.
Prior to the pandemic, Ivette Palomeque, RN, worked as a staff intensive care nurse at Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System and made $45 an hour. Now, Ms. Palomeque earns $120 an hour working as a travel nurse in a McAllen,Texas-based ICU, the latest travel position she’s held. She intends to work high-paid crisis contracts as long as possible.
“Going back to a staff job is just not an option,” Ms. Palomeque said. “Absolutely not.”
Houston-based Harris Health System, with about 2,200 bedside nursing positions, is reporting a 25 percent vacancy rate for the positions, up from 8 percent pre-pandemic. The system has increased pay for emergency and ICU nurses to $140 an hour until staffing levels improve.
“The hospital is not going to be able to survive on hiring travel nurses in perpetuity,” said Maureen Padilla, DNP, RN, senior vice president for nursing services at Harris Health.
The nurse shortage is creating a skills gap at Harris Health, Dr. Padilla said, explaining that inexperienced nurses must help with more complex care.
The added pressure from the pandemic and higher pay rates for travel nurses could prompt a permanent reset of wages for all nurses, said April Kapu, DNP, RN, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. was not keeping up with the demand. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing attributed the national shortage to four main reasons:
- Nursing school enrollment was not keeping pace with the needs. Even though enrollment was up, it was not keeping pace with the increase in need for nursing services.
- There has been a lack the necessary number of nursing school faculty members. Without enough teachers, thousands of people interested in joining the nursing workforce are unable to do so without degrees.
- The rate of retirement for nurses is growing rapidly, as over half of the RN workforce is currently over 50 years old.
- An aging population in the United States continues to drive more demand than ever seen for nursing services.
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