COVID Updates for Travel Nurses: November 25, 2020
Here are the latest COVID updates for travel nurses as the holidays approach and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the rest of the year will hold for COVID cases in the U.S. Day after day, we are hearing about record-breaking new infections, hospitals reaching peak capacity and public officials scrambling to figure out what is best for their communities. As of right now, the U.S. has surpassed 12 million cases of COVID and 253,600 deaths and counting, per the CDC.
A lot of the decisions that people are making now will continue to affect how the virus spreads, but here’s what we know about COVID as we head into Thanksgiving week.
What’s Happening with COVID-19 Right Now
The CDC’s COVID tracker shows that the majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are largely concentrated in the Midwest in states like Wyoming, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Utah, Iowa, and Montana. But almost every single state in the country is seeing an increase of both infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Aside from a handful of states, NPR’s daily state case tracker highlights that there is “unchecked community spread” across the entire U.S.
And while with our last update, there was somewhat of a plateau in deaths, as predicted, the hospitalizations and deaths have finally caught up to the numbers. Across the board, new COVID infections, hospitaliations, and deaths are increasing.
What’s Happening in Hospitals Right Now
We won’t sugar coat it: what’s happening with hospitals in many states in the U.S. is not pretty.
The country currently has more patients hospitalized with COVID than ever before, including during case peaks in the spring. Larger cities are facing an influx of patients, but what makes this surge of coronavirus even more frightening is that, as predicted, rural areas are now running up against their healthcare facility capacity.
Rural areas with hospitals that may only have a handful of ICU beds to begin with are being forced to send critically ill patients to other, larger hospitals. But even those hospitals are filling up — and there aren’t enough healthcare staff to keep up. A combination of infections and quarantines along with burnout and fatigue, mean many hospitals are facing dire staffing shortages.
There are nationwide shortages of healthcare workers, even as COVID cases continue to surge. According to data from the Department of Human and Health Services given to Atlantic staff, 22% of hospitals in the U.S. are reporting staff shortages. In some areas of rural America, in fact, the situation is so dire that hospitals are begging the public for help. Goshen Health in Indiana, for instance, put out a public plea on Facebook asking for anyone with a healthcare background or medical training to help them get through their current crisis. As past data has shown, the trend for COVID tends to follow a predictable pattern: an increase in cases means an increase in hospitalizations two weeks later. And that means, with COVID infections increasing daily, hospital needs and staffing shortages are likely to only increase in the coming weeks.
Travel Nurse News + Opportunities
The sudden surge of COVID cases in combination with healthcare staff themselves being sick or quarantined has led to a huge increase in the demand for travel nurses. As some sources are reporting, the demand for travel nurses is unparalleled and hospitals are paying some of the steepest rates ever seen.
ICU travel nurse positions are especially in demand and overall rates for travel nurse wages are up nearly 28%, according to NurseFly. Some hospitals have had to convert non-ICU floors to ICUs to keep up with the patient surge and need trained staff who can work in an ICU setting.
Frankly, travel nursing rates are the highest in years. And while that may be a good thing for any travel nurses looking to build income, it bodes badly for hospitals. Currently, based on researching travel nursing job boards, the states and positions with the highest pay rates are:
Pennsylvania: over $8K/weekly for ICU
Maryland: over $8K/weekly for ICU
North Dakota: over $8K/weekly for ICU
New Mexico: over $7K/weekly for ICU, Telemetry and Med/Surg
Minnesota: over $7K/weekly for ICU
Texas: $7K/weekly for ICU
Michigan, Montana, Oregon, Wisconsin: Between $5-6K/weekly for ICU, Med/Surg and Telemetry
Health experts across the board are predicting patient numbers will only increase as year end approaches and in combination with pre-scheduled staff time off for the holidays, cold weather and indoor gatherings, chances are that hospitals will continue to rely on travel nurses to staff their facilities.
So, if you’re interested in taking a short-term travel nursing position and are willing to work a COVID unit, there has never been a more lucrative time to take a travel nursing position than right now.