The United States’ nursing shortage is not a new problem. The workforce is shrinking even while demand for nurses increases, especially in rural areas and those far from major medical centers. Many hospitals are turning to travel nurses or extra incentives to attract new nurses and hold on to those they already employ, according to a piece from Reuters.
West Virginia’s Charleston Area Medical Center is one such hospital. This year alone, the hospital is spending $12 million on travel nurses. These specialists typically serve hospitals for up to 13 weeks at a time. But when faced with the decision of whether to hire a travel nurse or shut down a bed, many hospitals will choose the former despite the rising costs. That means the hospital is not required to pay for benefits, time off and other factors that increase costs.
But other hospitals with more funding are putting together enticing benefit packages to attract new, full-time hires. The article highlights J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV, as one such example:
J.W. Ruby, the flagship hospital for WVU Medicine, offers higher pay for certain shifts, tuition reimbursement, $10,000 signing bonuses and free housing for staff who live at least 60 miles away. Next year, the hospital is considering paying college tuition for the family members of long-time nurses to keep them in West Virginia.
But providing extra incentives for nurses is out of the scope of many health care providers. Funding determines the lengths to which hospitals can go to retain staff, so these solutions will not work for everybody. In the meantime, the nursing shortage is still a looming threat for many providers and solutions like these are not available to everyone.