MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - It’s been nearly six months since Kymbreon Anderson left her home in Montgomery, and job of six years at Baptist East, to become a travel nurse during the pandemic.
“I think for any health care worker, right now is hard,” Anderson said. “I mean this is something that we’ve never experienced before.”
Stationed in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Anderson is on her first assignment. She said so far her experience has been pleasant but very busy.
“I think everywhere, every hospital is pretty much short-staffed and just overworked,” Anderson said.
Anderson is not currently working in a COVID-19 unit, but said her hospital is being impacted by the virus.
“With COVID patients, sometimes you don’t know what to expect,” Anderson said. “You’ve always got to be on your p’s and your q’s because they can go south at any given time, so it is difficult seeing that.”
Anderson said she had always wanted to take her talents abroad, but with her finance living in Missouri she felt now would be the best time to take advantage of the opportunity.
“There is always a need at every hospital,” Anderson said.
Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said even though Alabama’s daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continues to be on a downward trend, travel nurses are still needed.
“Without question, travel nurses are in high demand, and finding them is very very difficult,” Williamson said.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses, several factors contribute to a shortage in nursing:
- Nurses reaching retirement age
- Stress levels driving nurses to leave
- Nursing school facility shortage
The tight supply of nurses available is driving prices higher too, in a real lesson of supply and demand.
“You’re having to hire travel nurses and they cost substantially more, and that becomes a financial issue,” Williamson said. “The other way it’s becoming an issue is because many of the staff are becoming traveling nurses leaving to go work some place else for higher salaries.”
When your job is in high demand, you tend to get paid a little extra for it. Salaries for travel nurses can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a week, depending on where you’re stationed.
“The pay is substantially more than most nurses would make in their own institution,” Williamson said.
“I understand the excitement, the opportunity, it’s just a challenge for the institutions they leave, and then it’s a challenge quite frankly for the institutions to which they go because of the cost associated with their services.”
But despite the financial challenges that come with travel nurses, hospitals still desperately need them to continue operating during the pandemic.
“We had a nursing shortage in Alabama before the pandemic, and certainty the pandemic has exacerbated that,” Williamson said. “I would not be at all surprised to see us continue to need travel nurses until we get through the pandemic.”
Williamson said after the pandemic you will still see travel nurses, but there won’t be the widespread demand that there is across the country.
“It is a time limited phenomenon,” Williamson said. “But it may be another three to six months before we think we are out of this and think the world can begin to return to normal.”