“The travels nurse business is good, very dynamic, very busy, quite fluid,” said Aya Healthcare Executive Vice President April Hansen, RN, MSN. “However, there is definitely a shortage of qualified health practitioners in many areas. COVID-19 added a whole layer of demand.”
According to Hansen there are also areas which have been much less affected by the virus that are operating normally.
At AMN Healthcare, Landry Seedig, group president and COO, nursing & allied solutions said, “We are seeing heavy demand for ICU (intensive care unit and ER nurses, which has tripled in the past two weeks and tripled from the prior year.
Hansen said Aya sees demand increase each day in hot spots like New York City.
As far as demand goes, AMN listed its top nursing specialties in demand as: ICU, emergency room and telemetry. Aya said its top 3 are ICU, ER and medical surgical.
While both companies have always been careful in placement, the companies must take even greater precautions. Hansen says Aya checks with hospitals to see how set they are for PPE (personal protective equipment).
“Do they have masks?” Hansen said. “Do they have equipment to keep caregivers safe?”
Those questions take on a special urgency these days. We do have some PPE on hand and have distributed it to some clinicians who may have not felt safe, Hansen said.
Another level of safety comes from communications. Websites and online communications provide key connections for staff trying to stay healthy or just trying to navigate the intricacies of living in a new city.
The companies help where they can. Housing can be a challenge for any employee. AMN recognizes that. “We have the best housing team in the health care staffing industry,” Seedig said.
When asked about reluctance to travel in these times, AMN’s Seedig said he finds a reluctance to sit by. “In less than two weeks’ time, we had over 18,000 health care professional ‘hand raisers’ come to us to help them find ways of serving,” Seedig said. “These are nurses, physicians, and allied health professionals who have raised their hand to serve in hospital and other facilities treating COVID-19 patients.”
Hansen said she has seen both volunteers and those who are reluctant. “It is a standard Bell Curve,” Hansen said. “There are reluctant folks. Perhaps they have a condition and don’t want to increase their risk profile. On the opposite side, we see those who are jumping in willingly. That affirms what we all know of nurses, and it makes us really proud of whom we represent.”
Seedig likened the clinicians to “smokejumpers parachuting in to stop a wildfire.”
With an increase in danger has come an increase in pay.
AMN said pay rates for its professionals are in the “normal realm for crisis rates.”
“It is important to remember people go into health care because they want to help,” Seedig said.
Aya said pay depends mostly on how quick one needs to get there, what kind of work and how risky. “For the normal markets, there is no need for change in pay or benefits,” Hansen said. Of course, some really in-demand positions such as respiratory therapist create a national market for the position.
The Local Picture
Fortunately, San Diego has not been swamped by demand for COVID-19 needs. Hansen is confident local health care professionals are ready. “We’ve been working since early February with clients preparing and ensuring they have all the right needs and resources, as well,” Hansen said. “So far. We have not seen an incredible rise in demand, but we have seen preparedness, a high level of preparedness.
“Bar none some amazing professional are leading preparedness in the community” she said.
Both AMN and Aya see a need for change after the crisis is over. The ease with which both companies adapted to a complete environment of working remotely may make that change a permanent reality.
“…There are important national policy and regulatory changes we need, including national licensure so that health care professional can go wherever they are needed as quickly as possible,” Seedig said. He also advocated removing roadblocks to telehealth.
Hansen sees a new model. “We need to look at the process, throw what doesn’t work out the window and be entrepreneurs at our company every day.”