NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Vaccines may be rolling out, but our COVID-19 ICUs are still at capacity and the need for nurses to take care of patients is greater than ever.
The need is great across the country, with 30,000 open jobs for travel nurses right now, the majority in COVID-19 ICUs, according to a spokesperson for Aya Healthcare. That’s more than twice the amount needed when the pandemic hit in the spring.
“We started with 10 beds on that unit as an ICU. And then we just kept growing and growing and growing and over the holidays, it got to 37 beds and then we expanded to another ICU as well, so it’s really grown,” said Robin Steaban, the chief nursing officer for the adult hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said.
On a regular hospital floor, it’s about one nurse for every two patients. But in overcrowded COVID intensive care units, patients often need much more help. It’s a demand for staff hospitals haven’t been able to keep up with. In Tennessee alone, there are currently more than 900 travel nurse positions open.
“Travelers have definitely helped us and we have offered our nurses compensation for working additional shifts,” Steaban explained. “Our staff is just incredible and they have picked up extra where there have been gaps and now we’ve had nurses out with COVID we’ve had to cover those shifts so our teams have really, really stepped up.”
AYA Healthcare has 16,000 travel nurses across the country right now. Friday, their website listed nearly 43,000 available crisis help positions in hospitals.
They say hospitals are having to compete for staff with escalating pay packages, with rates ranging from $4,000 to $8,000 a week for the most in-demand specialties, with one of those being ICU nurses.
“The best part about nursing though is that in the moments where people are most vulnerable, there is a nurse,” Steaban said. “You go home every day knowing that you made a difference.”
Several nurses have also come out of retirement to help fill gaps.
Right now, there are a lot of programs for training nurses and jobs that were once requiring years of experience are willing to take on less experienced people and train them.
You can also do a generic search for positions across the country here and search by your location.
COVID-19 in Tennessee
(This reflects what the TDH reports each day. )
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.