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Many travel nurses in Alabama are set to go home

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:51 PM CST
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CULLMAN, Ala. (WAFF) - Dozens of travel nurses across the state of Alabama are set to leave very soon. Back in September, the governor allocated millions of dollars of CARES Act federal funding to put a bandage on the nursing shortage in Alabama.

They hired multiple travel medical professionals to work at hospitals in the state. They arrived in October for a six-week period. That time is running out.

Many hospital leaders say they’re grateful for the temporary help. “Of course, any extra help is appreciated. With the surge of patients, nurses are working long hours and they’re tired,” said Kathy Jones, the Director of Critical Care at Cullman Regional Hospital. “So, any relief bringing in that gives us another set of hands, another set of eyes is always appreciated.”

Cullman Regional Hospital got a substantial amount of help from the state. They got 12 travel healthcare professionals according to hospital leadership. Eight are registered nurses and four are respiratory therapists.

Cullman Regional Hospital got twice as many workers as Huntsville Hospital. They got six new temporary staff members, four nurses and two respiratory therapists.

“I can’t reiterate the teamwork they’ve displayed and that we’ve seen during COVID and how everyone’s come together, said Jones. “The nurses have been the backbone of this care.”

The state sent out $12.3 million in federal funding when ICU beds were overflowing with COVID-19 patients back in August and September.

At the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the Cullman Regional’s ER capacity hit 200% percent during the holiday pandemic surge. This was the highest capacity of any ICU in the country.

This is putting a bandaid on a larger problem, Alabama has a nurses retention problem. A reporter at WAFF’s partner, WBRC, talked to the President of the Birmingham Black Nurses Association, Lean Nash. She says other states are paying nurses two to three times more than Alabama nurses.

According to our partners at WFSA, Alabama nurses get paid about 27 or 28 dollars an hour. Meanwhile, travel nurses can get paid over $100 an hour for the temporary job

“What’s to stop a nurse from going into a neighboring state, especially if they live close to a state line and coming back home to their families,” said President of the Alabama State Nursing Association, Dr. Lindsey Harris.

The Communications Director at Cullman Regional Hospital tells me that there is no plan at this time to replace the temporary workers. She says there’s no funding available to add or extend the temporary staff past the six weeks placement.

According to the Alabama Hospital Association, no more money will be allocated to bringing in medical professionals to hospitals.

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