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Demand for travel nurses way up as hospitals see record number of COVID-19 cases

Posted at 3:37 PM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-02 18:41:01-05

With demand for travel nurses through the roof, staffing agencies and nurses are feeling the pressure.

“I've been a nurse for 10 years, I've never seen anything like this before, said emergency room nurse Abigael Kaszar. “And it's, I mean, it's just something for the books. It's just crazy.”

Kaszar works through Aya Healthcare and she was at three hospitals over the past year, including one in New York City at the height of the area’s virus outbreak.

Kaszar says she's always keeping an eye on open ER positions. At the end of spring, there were a couple hundred. Now, there are over 4,000.

Another staffing agency, Travel Nurse Across America, tells us their requests from facilities are up 175% year over year.

The agency says it's because hospitals want staff that can jump right in.

“Being able to go from one hospital to another, and to understand and learn the different policy and procedure very, very quickly is difficult. And so these nurses are very talented and can come in and start working on a dime,” said Jill Eliassen, VP of Clinical Services at Travel Nurse Across America.

Kaszar is now at a hospital in California, where she says the ER is just overwhelmed.

COVID-19 patients who get discharged can't always go home, but other facilities they'd normally go to are full, so they stay in the hospital longer. The intensive care unit fills up too.

Patients who have nowhere else to go trickle down to the ER, which still has ambulances and other new patients coming in.

All of this is happening while hospitals are trying to isolate COVID-19 patients from others.

“It's just very busy and these people are just so sick, and it's a really big challenge keeping up. It's an emotional challenge, it's sad and it's scary and it's, I mean, so many of these infections were preventable. You feel so much regret and you feel sad for these people,” said Kaszar.

Travel Nurse Across America is encouraging short breaks between contracts because their nurses are getting burnt out.

“These nurses are also having to be psychiatrists and counselors and support for family members that are in a hospital due to COVID and aren't able to be with their loved ones,” said Kathy Kerstiens, Sr. VP of Client Services at Travel Nurse Across America.

The agency thinks the demand for travel nurses won't let up until at least mid-summer, when they can finally get more relief.