The start of 2022 saw news stories related to the life and working conditions of nurses remaining top-of-fold. The most talked about subject in the medical industry for the last few months has been the rise of travel nursing, and that topic has shown no signs of slowing down. Below, we’ll discuss some recent news stories related to travel nursing, as well as some other notable moments from the month of January that pertain to the world of nursing.
Lawmakers call for federal investigation into travel nurse salaries
In last month's news report and in a separate blog post you can read here, we detailed the rise of travel nursing and how more and more nurses are choosing to make the switch. While travel nursing is being hailed by those who work in the industry as an amazing way to earn more money and travel at the same time, in January a group of bi-partisan lawmakers petitioned a letter sent to the White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, which stated that they felt that third-party agencies are "taking advantage" and profiting from staffing shortages during the pandemic.
During unprecedented times, many hospitals across the country have turned to staffing agencies to contract traveling nurses to help on the frontlines. Many hospitals have become reliant on travel nurses to function, however Congressional lawmakers are calling for an official federal investigation. It’s no secret that travel nurses are making more than their staff counterparts. The Dallas Morning News reported that traveling nurses in Texas are making about $40,000 more per year (not including overtime) — than nurses who work full time for a single hospital.
The Morning News further reported in January that “staffing agencies are able to pay travel nurses a higher wage because they charge a premium to hospitals, which have few options to fill workers during shortages amid COVID-19 surges. Every time a new wave spreads in a community, hospitals pay more to staffing agencies to hire health care professionals.”
In light of these developments, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Virginia is leading a bipartisan group of dozens of lawmakers who are urging White House officials to crack down on the use of traveling nurses.
"We have received reports that the nurse staffing agencies are vastly inflating prices, by two, three or more times pre-pandemic rates, and then taking 40% or more of the amount being charged to the hospitals for themselves in profits," the January 24th letter read.
This development has naturally been met with widespread criticism, as it is recognized that nurses in the US, and around the world, are severely underpaid. Many who have chosen this career change have also stated that flying across the country to a new city to work with sick COVID-19 patients justifies extra income.
National Nurses United hold nationwide vigils
On Jan. 13, 2022, registered members of the National Nurses United held gatherings across the country, including a candlelight vigil in Washington, D.C. for nurses who lost their lives to Covid-19. Outside of the White House, NNU lit 481 candles, one for each nurse lost during the pandemic. The NNU also held a national virtual press conference urging President Biden to follow through on his campaign promise of prioritizing public health and overall working conditions for healthcare workers.
NNU nurses expressed that their frustrations that the Biden administration has “ripped away critical protections from health care workers and the public, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) weakening Covid isolation guidelines and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announcing that it intends to withdraw critical Covid protections for health care workers — right when the Omicron variant is exploding across the country and hospitalizations are skyrocketing”.
Tennessee Doctors and Nurses at odds over new Chart Review Bill
In January, the Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA) began proceedings calling for a bill that would eliminate the need for doctors to sign off on nurse chart reviews. Currently, registered nurses are required to have doctors sign off on 20% of their charts every 30 days.
However, Doctors and nurses in the state are disagreeing over the proposed legislation.
While many doctors have expressed the need for these types of checks and balances, Kathleen Murphey, a member of the TNA stated that it is outdated and “simply doesn't make sense”.
Doctors with the Tennessee Medical Association have begun expressing their disagreement with Dr. Kevin Smith expressed that “chart review is about having checks and balances and ensuring quality care; having someone with more education collaborate with those who have less”.
In 35 states, there are no requirements for a doctor to review patient charts, however some physicians believe that they must sign the chart if they are billing for the service, which begs the question of whether or not their dismay is down to patient safety or saving face.
Business Insider profiles Travel Nurse
While lawmakers in Washington have been calling for stricter protocol around travel nurse agencies, more and more nurses are continuing to make the switch. With more money, the lure of travel and the ability to control your own schedule being the main reasons staff nursing are waiting to change, reputable news sites like Business Insider have been profiling travel nurses in an effort to shed some light on this booming sector of the medical world.
The expose goes into detail about the working life of Anna Reese, a 26 year old travel nurse who has been working across California for the last year. Reese tripled her salary by making the switch from staff to travel nurse, and tells BI the pros and cons of taking the leap.
“I've moved directly from contract to contract to pay off debt and save, but many travel nurses work a 13-week contract and take a month or two off before signing the next because the pay is so good. You need at least one to two years of experience as a nurse before you can start working as a travel nurse. After that, it's possible to apply and start immediately, because there's such an increased need for ER and ICU nurses.”
Resse was sure to also highlight the downsides of travel nursing, which she said “One of the downsides of being a travel nurse is having to still pay your rent or mortgage back home, so you've got to be good with your finances”.