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Traveling nurses in high demand to battle COVID-19

Traveling nurses in high demand to battle COVID-19
Posted at 4:33 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 16:33:59-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As a former traveling nurse, Samantha Hessing said several companies reach out to her almost every day with offers to send her to hospitals that are in dire need while battling COVID-19.

"There’s a nursing shortage, that's never gone away," Hessing said, "and all that's happening now is these big hospitals are providing enough cash offers to draw a vast majority of them."

Though its grueling work, the pay can be upwards of $3,000 per week.

"I've seen numbers anywhere from $3,600 a week, up to almost $8,000 a week," Hessing said. "That is with mandatory overtime. So some of those contracts, it is written in that you'll work 48 or 60 hours a week."

But Hessing also said the higher the pay, the shorter contract – about 6 to 8 weeks instead of the usual 13 weeks.

Traveling nurses have made up about 6% of Truman Medical Centers' nursing staff since COVID-19 broke out.

"The ability to supplement that with agency or traveling staff is certainly helpful. But realizing that's an area that is very much in demand," Charlie Shields, president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers/University Health, said.

Some nurses found the concept of traveling appealing when elective surgeries went away at the onset of the pandemic.

"So many things had shut down that there wasn't actually an opportunity for some of the nurses to work or get hours," Hessing said. "And so they did. They left and took travel assignments."

Hessing said Kansas City, Missouri, is a bigger draw for traveling nurses because it's a metropolitan area, but worries that not all hospital systems in the metro are as lucky.

"It's causing a pretty big deficit for smaller hospitals or rural hospitals that don't have the resources to be able to offer that," Hessing said.

This story was first reported by Andres Gutierrez at KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri.