Devon E. Jones, RN BSN
My last shift as a floor nurse
On my last shift on December 4th, 2021 I gave report to two travel nurses. It was my last shift before being put on unpaid administrative leave for being unvaccinated.
I wrote in an email to my employer the week before my leave began:
Even now, I work double the shifts I am required as a per diem employee. This week alone, despite my impending termination or placement on unpaid administrative leave, I am working four shifts to help staff my unit.– Devon E. Jones RN, BSN
Travel nursing: Why we need it
I worked on my hospital’s med-surg COVID-unit during the height of the pandemic in 2020 in direct patient care for positive COVID 19 patients. I was looking to transfer units before COVID 19 hit but chose to stay because it was the right thing to do for my unit and my patients. During that time from March 2020 to July 2020 when I did eventually transfer, I picked up extra shifts, worked nights, and volunteered to work the ICUs despite being pregnant.
I did this alongside a growing number of travel nurses, and I am thankful for them. During the early days of the pandemic many nurses flat out left the hospitals in masse, a lot more were out sick and/or quarantining. Travel nurses made an increasing staffing problem just a little better.
Why they are scabs
While travel nurses help improve shift staffing, it is also disheartening to work next to them. They make up to 3 times as much money as a staff nurse for doing the same work.
Besides making so much more, travel nurses are helping to cover the symptoms of mistreatment of nurses by hospitals. Nurses are leaving the hospital because of a lack of pay for the unsafe working conditions they are expected to perform in. These nurses still need a paycheck so they go to travel agencies and start working for 3 times the pay at a neighboring hospital.
Hospitals are willing to pay travel nurses more during a staffing crisis because it is short-term. Once the staffing crisis is corrected, they can eliminate that extra cost by reducing travel nurses. If they pay their staff nurses more during staffing crisis’ they can’t take that pay back down.
Why I support travel nursing
Travel nurses are speaking with their feet. Nurses leaving their staffing position to work for travel agencies for more pay is economics – you don’t pay me for the work I do, I’ll go somewhere that does.
These are my sisters and brothers who I saw crying at the nurses’ station from the stress of staff nursing positions. Now they are at least being recognized for their economic potential. They deserve every penny of it!
What the US government has told all nurses in the last two month
Nurses do not have self-autonomy.
The supreme court upheld President Biden’s mandate that federal employees must be vaccinated. This includes all healthcare workers who work at facilities that accept Medicaid or Medicare (hospitals and all hospital network doctor offices).
Nurses are not worth their market value.
Congress is making moves to cap travel nursing pay. They are putting hospital profits over nurses’ pay. Travel nursing is nurses’ most moral place to tell hospitals to pay them what they are worth – and they are worth the money because hospitals can’t keep staff nurses at their current pay rate.
What happens next?
Nursing is a broken profession. Not recognized for their work by employers and exploited by schools promising jobs. Even if the nurse wage cap doesn’t pass Congress, I don’t see how the nursing retention problem is going to be fixed until patient care is so affected by poor nurse-to-patient ratios that the public demands reprisal.