Travel Nurses Pave the Way to a Better Future in Healthcare
In the wake of the first wave of COVID-19 cases, hospitals and healthcare workers are left to evaluate our healthcare system. As we ask hard questions about what’s working and what’s not, travel nurses are uniquely positioned to provide answers.
What COVID-19 Revealed About Healthcare
As the country seems to be recovering from the initial wave of COVID-19, hospitals and healthcare workers are taking a literal and physical deep breath. Fears of not having enough resources, ventilators, and staff are quelling and healthcare workers may be lowering their masks (outside of work, socially-distanced, of course) for the first time in a long time.
And as we move into post-pandemic life — and hope a second wave is not in our future — many in healthcare are left trying to answer the question: Did we do a good enough job? And what did COVID-19 show us needs to change in our healthcare system?
Being faced with a pandemic from a novel virus laid bare some of the challenges the healthcare system has faced. Racial disparity in healthcare, for one, became glaringly obvious, as COVID-19 hospitalization rates hit black and Hispanic individuals the highest. We also saw more clearly the impact that dangers of delaying care based on the fears of being able to pay that many low-income and uninsured Americans can have. For instance, delaying care could potentially lead to more serious healthcare problems for the individual because what could have been a minor problem with early intervention turns into a more serious condition, as well as a more expensive issue for the healthcare facility.
And more narrowly, the pandemic also revealed aspects of how individual hospitals and healthcare facilities are equipped to handle an emergency like a pandemic. For instance, according to data from travel nurse company NurseFly, we now have a clearer understanding of how important factors like personal protective equipment (PPE) levels, crisis training for staff, mental health resources for healthcare workers, and communication protocols are.
“We are committed to bringing transparency to the travel nursing industry, by providing nurses the most comprehensive picture of travel assignments including pay and hospital conditions,” said Parth Bhakta, NurseFly CEO, in a press release. “The perspectives of nurses shed a light on the fault lines within our public health system, and serve as call-to-action to healthcare policymakers, public, and decision-makers on what needs to be done to protect our healthcare workers.”
NurseFly pooled responses from over 1,380 healthcare workers from their travel nursing community to glean some valuable insight on what those workers found about hospital preparedness, hospital operations, and what changes might be necessary for the future. The survey revealed important information about healthcare, such as:
- 40% of nurses surveyed felt that their facility had provided mental health resources to support their well-being
- 52% were not satisfied with their hospital’s training on how to appropriately treat COVID-19 patients
- 65% were satisfied with state government officials’ communications.
- 70% of travel nurses had concerns about their personal safety with their assigned hospitals
- 39% reported inadequate PPE
How Travel Nurses Can Help
As the snapshot shows, travel nurses can provide valuable insight into how hospitals measure up against each other. Because unlike staff nurses, who stay at one facility in one geographical career for their entire careers or for a large portion of it, travel nurses have the advantage of moving from facility-to-facility and to geographical areas across the country.
Thanks to their movement, input from travel nurses can provide crucial information about key areas that could be improved upon. For instance, a travel nurse who has worked in one hospital in Detroit who then works in a hospital in California could see huge fluctuations in resources, facility culture, and practices — and reporting on those differences could help paint a broader picture of any gaps in the healthcare picture.
Get Involved as a Travel Nurse
So, how can you help? The first step is simple — work as a travel nurse! That step alone is a vital one, as any experience as a travel nurse will not only expose you to different healthcare environments but also increase your own knowledge and ability to think critically about any gaps or challenges you see that might need to be addressed. Being exposed to different ways of doing things and having the knowledge to compare and contrast situations are crucial.
Next, work with your travel nurse agency on any surveying protocol they may already have in place. If they offer you a survey about your experience, you can consider sharing your input and experience with them to help paint that bigger picture of the challenges in healthcare that need to be addressed.
If your experience with low levels of PPE at one facility concerns you, or you see a better system of communication implemented at another hospital, share that information. As a travel nurse, your input is vital and matters to the entire healthcare system — and along with making an immediate difference in your patients’ lives, you could impact the entire future of healthcare too.