North Alabama travel nurse talks increase in industry demand

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – To meet the demand of staffing shortages, hospitals are recruiting travel nurses. Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris designated the nursing shortage as Alabama’s most urgent need.

Travel nurses are usually paid more than staff nurses, which could be why we are seeing more people take those opportunities.

To meet demand, Governor Kay Ivey has put $12.3 million dollars in federal funds toward bringing qualified travel nurses to work temporarily in Alabama hospitals.

North Alabama native Sherry Tapia started her first travel nurse assignment 18 months ago, just before the pandemic started.

“I had quit my floor nurse job to take a job in another state, then the pandemic hit, and those jobs were canceled. A friend of mine suggested I take the travel nurse job that way I could make some money and not be sitting at home during this entire pandemic,” says Sherry Tapia.

Tapia says she plans to keep traveling even after the pandemic, partially because of the increase in pay.

“Alabama is one of the worst paying states as far as nurses go… that’s just not fair,” says Tapia.

Tapia says while the purpose of hiring travel nurses is to fill empty positions and help with staffing, sometimes there is pushback from staff nurses over the income disparity for the same workload.

“We do get that ‘you make so much more money than I do.’ But it’s a choice. You chose to take this job and that’s what they offered you. They said ‘this is what you’re going to make,’ and you said ‘I will take that and I will work here.’ At any time people can leave. They can go. They can do the travel nursing,” says Tapia.

Tapia believes Alabama hospitals are going to have to pay more for there to be an incentive to stay in the state. She says travel nurses are only a temporary fix to current staffing shortages.

“Bring in travel nurses, get us through this pandemic and then they can go their way and try to get some long-term nurses, let’s try to increase that pay and make us comparable with other states in the country,” says Tapia.

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