Traveling nurses continue to be in high demand as hospitals look for more staff. A Plano-based agency that helps health care professionals find contracted jobs with providers said the number of listings they continue to receive from hospitals is significant.
“The traffic has gone up, we can’t keep up, to be honest with you. The amount of needs that are there today are actually higher than they were at the height of the pandemic last year," said Scott Clutter, senior vice president of operations for StaffDNA.
He said they're seeing about 3,000 active users daily on their app, which continues to grow.
He said their software helps traveling nurses match with the jobs they want and StaffDNA works with hospitals and other providers around the country.
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"Our resources are really dedicated to making sure that accuracy is there. So when they come to our platform, they're confident that the information they're seeing is real-time, and they can actually do everything on their own, build their own packages there, customize it the way they need to, and then get themselves submitted over to the facility without having to wait for somebody to go through," explained Clutter.
The recent demand of more patients with the shortage of workers has hospitals looking to contractors to fill the void.
"The needs that are there are actually higher than they were last year, and it's not just due to COVID, it’s the profession itself," explained Scott about nurses who work in high-stress environments between 40 and 60 hours a week.
Burnout, retirement, health concerns and pay are some of the reasons nurses have been leaving hospital jobs. It's not necessarily a new issue, but the pandemic has accelerated the staffing shortage according to different administrators around DFW.
The recent influx of COVID-19 patients has really put the need for nurses in the spotlight and it's not necessarily that they're leaving the industry, but rather turning to higher-paid gigs as traveling nurses.
"Agencies are obviously offering top dollar and for public agencies, that becomes really difficult to keep up with," said Dr. Joseph Chang, Chief Medical Officer for Parkland Hospital.
Parkland, which is the county hospital for Dallas County, is in need of 470 full-time positions, mainly in nursing.
“We've had situations where we've had folks sign up for these traveling agencies, and then we actually hire them back at the higher agency rate, and of course, that's clearly an unsustainable situation for a public entity, like ours," explained Chang.
Clutter said hospitals typically rely on companies like his to fill short-term vacancies for when people go on vacation, maternity leave or medical leave.
He said it wasn't always a longer-term need, but given the current climate doesn't expect the market to slow down.
"The greater the need usually the higher the pay for the contract that you're getting, and the DFW area has quite a massive exodus of nurses, so there is a staffing shortage, so a lot of contracts are actually going up in pay right now," said Ethan Gloger, a traveling registered nurse.
He started as a nurse in 2013 and worked for seven years at Parkland Hospital. In 2020 he became a traveling nurse and most recently wrapped up a contract in Tennessee.
He's currently on an eight-week contract with a hospital in Dallas. He works in the Intensive Care Unit and helps out with COVID units.
“We're definitely seeing an increase in the amount of COVID patients that we’re admitting to the point where it's an ICU bed shortage is a staffing shortage of caregivers that are able to take care of these patients," he said.
Gloger said while he does make more money traveling, that's not the only reason why he entered the field.
"For my personality, I crave change. I'm always ready for the next adventure around the corner. So definitely meeting new people, new doctors, experiencing new things is definitely right up my alley," explained Gloger.
Clutter echoed the same thing and said that's why some nurses choose to travel because of the flexibility and change of scenery.
But even with all of that, Gloger said it doesn't' take away the emotional and physical toll the pandemic continues to have on nurses, traveling or not.
“The numbers keep rising, stress levels are higher, I'd say at this point than they were during the first start of the pandemic," said Gloger. “We just don't know when this is going to end. We don't know how much longer this is going to go on for, there's no end in sight. It's kind of hard to look for any sort of hope or goal that we need to reach."
Thursday afternoon Gov. Greg Abbott's office announced in a statement the state would be asking for more out-of-state help to staff hospitals:
"About 2,700 medical personnel will be called up by the end of this week to help hospitals care for the increasing number of COVID-19 patients across Texas. DSHS will increase that to at least 5,500 by the end of next week. This operation follows the Governor's directive on August 9th that DSHS utilize staffing agencies to provide out-of-state medical personnel to Texas health care facilities to mitigate the surge of COVID-19 cases in Texas. The additional deployment of personnel will be fully funded by the state through September 30,"