As COVID wreaks havoc among nurses, some look to travel jobs

Heather Norton had long wanted to travel the country, but her schedule – and her salary – did not allow it.

So last month Norton took the plunge, leaving her posts at a hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, and as a part-time nursing teacher at Wake Technical Community College. She hired herself as a travel nurse, combining the job she loves with the change of scenery she dreamed of, thus increasing her salary.

“Once you decide to do travel nursing, recruiters are everywhere,” said Norton, who graduated from nursing school ten years ago. “You can have your choice of jobs in any state across the country. It gives me a lot more opportunities.

At the hospital where she worked for the past seven years, Norton has “floated”, moving between different floors and different specialties such as telemetry or surgery.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, straining nurses’ physical strength and emotional tolerance for bedside work, thousands of travel nursing companies have attracted hospital staff.

“The salaries they promise are increasing almost every week,” said Danny Yoder, emergency department manager at UNC Rex Healthcare. “I just saw an offer for a travel nurse in Florida for $ 5,200 per week.”

In the previous two weeks, Yoder said, the emergency department had hired eight nurses and still had nine openings.

While travel nursing predated the pandemic, the industry exploded once it hit. During the wave of delta variations in the fall, agencies offering increasingly higher salaries drew nurses from hospitals across the country.

Hospitals often have to fill in the gaps by using itinerant nurses, sometimes rehiring their own former employees at a much higher rate.

Being a travel nurse

As travelers, nurses tell recruiters what type of work they want to do and where, then sign contracts to stay in one location for a few months at a time.

Offers may include money for expenses such as extended stays at hotels or Airbnbs, as well as meals and travel expenses. During COVID-19 outbreaks, extra money was offered to nurses willing to work in hospitals in crisis areas where the number of cases was overwhelming.

These people will earn their money, Norton said.

“COVID patients, when I was working with them, they could change in the blink of an eye. They could be stable and then literally crash in a matter of minutes, they’re so unpredictable. So if you saw their oxygen levels drop a little bit, you’d kind of be on high alert. “

In her new job, Norton said, she didn’t want to travel too far right away as she has two teenage children at home. So she took an assignment at the same hospital where she began her nursing career, Scotland Memorial in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

Norton usually works three 12-hour shifts a week.

Next summer, she said, when her children are out of school, Norton would like to take them with her on a travel nurse assignment in Hawaii.

“And once they graduate, we could just sell the house, buy an RV, take a travel assignment, and just travel the world. This is something we never had the time or the money to do.

– News Service Tribune

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