As COVID takes a toll on nurses, some turn to travel jobs


Heather Norton had lengthy wished to travel the nation, however her schedule — and wage — wouldn’t allow it.

So final month, Norton took the plunge, leaving her positions at a Raleigh, N.C., hospital and as a part-time nursing teacher at Wake Technical Community College. She signed on as a travel nurse, combining the career she loves with the change of surroundings she craved, boosting her wage within the course of.

“Once you decide you want to do travel nursing, recruiters are everywhere,” stated Norton, who graduated from nursing college a decade in the past. “You can have your choice of jobs in every state in the country. This gives me a lot more opportunity.”

In the hospital the place she labored for the previous seven years, Norton “floated,” shifting between totally different flooring and totally different specialties reminiscent of telemetry or surgical procedure.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has worn on, taxing nurses’ bodily energy and emotional tolerance for bedside work, 1000’s of travel nursing corporations have been luring away hospital employees.

“The salaries they promise go up almost weekly,” stated Danny Yoder, emergency division supervisor at UNC Rex Healthcare. “I just saw an offer for a travel nurse in Florida for $5,200 a week.”

In the earlier two weeks, Yoder stated, the emergency division had employed eight nurses and nonetheless had 9 openings.

While travel nursing predates the pandemic, the trade boomed as soon as it hit. During the delta variant surge within the fall, businesses providing ever-higher salaries have lured nurses from hospitals all around the nation.

Hospitals typically are left to fill the gaps utilizing travel nurses, typically hiring again their very own former workers at a a lot greater fee.

Being a travel nurse

As vacationers, nurses inform recruiters what sort of work they need to do and the place, then signal contracts to keep in a place for a few months at a time.

Offers might embrace cash for bills reminiscent of prolonged stays in resorts or Airbnbs, together with meals and travel prices. During COVID-19 surges, extra cash was supplied for nurses prepared to work at hospitals in disaster areas the place the variety of circumstances was overwhelming.

Those folks will earn their cash, Norton stated.

“COVID patients, when I worked with them, they could change at the drop of a hat. They could be stable and then literally crash in a matter of minutes, they’re that unpredictable. So if you saw their oxygen levels drop just a little bit, you would kind of go on alert.”

In her new job, Norton stated, she didn’t need to travel too far immediately as a result of she has two teenage kids at house. So she took an task on the similar hospital the place she began her nursing profession, Scotland Memorial in Laurinburg, N.C.

Norton often works three 12-hour shifts a week.

Next summer season, she stated, when her youngsters are out of college, Norton would love to take them together with her on a travel nursing task in Hawaii.

“And once they graduate, we could just sell the house, get an RV, take travel assignment and just travel the world. That’s something we’ve never had the time or the money to do.”

— Tribune News Service