- Pittsburgh-based UPMC is forming its own in-house travel staffing agency for registered nurses and surgical technologists to take rotating, six-week assignments at its hospitals across three states, depending on where the need is greatest, according to a press release.
- The system wants to rely less on outside agency staff to help retain current workers and potentially bring back those who've left amid nationwide shortages, it said in the release.
- UPMC said it can hire two of its own travel nurses or techs for the price of one contracted through an outside agency, which will save the system money and help avert shortages.
Healthcare workers on the front lines are exhausted and burned out as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its third year. Most major for-profit and nonprofit health systems reported spending more on salaries, bonuses and contract labor in the third quarter as they dealt with higher turnover and challenges recruiting new staff.
UPMC hopes it can solve the problem internally with its own travel staffing agency, comprised of its own nurses and surgical technologists who wish to take temporary assignments at the systems' hospitals across Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
The six-week assignments will be based on wherever demand for staff is greatest, especially with a new COVID-19 variant on the rise and other volumes returning after patients delayed care earlier in the pandemic.
Recent surveys show both nurses and physicians say they're considering other employment opportunities as they continue dealing with chaotic work environments and heavier workloads. At the same time, pay rates for traveling nurses have skyrocketed, enticing some to leave full-time positions and take higher-paying temporary ones.
Staffing challenges throughout the pandemic have boosted demand for temporary, traveling nurses that are unlikely to abate anytime soon, Kathy Kohnke, senior vice president of client relations at staffing firms Fastaff and USNursing, said.
The ongoing pandemic, flu season and return of non-emergency care will keep hospitals busy and demand for staff up for "probably the next 24 months," Kohnke said.
Career satisfaction is an emerging pain point for burned out healthcare workers, with just 32% of nurses recently surveyed saying they are very satisfied with their occupation, compared to 52% who said the same prior to the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by staffing firm Cross Country Healthcare and Florida Atlantic University's College of Nursing.
UPMC aims for its program to offer career growth opportunities for employees as they gain experience working in different settings throughout the system, and it could potentially include additional job roles beyond registered nurses and surgical technologists.
"Not only will the program be a retention tool for our current staff, it also will fuel a new pipeline to recruit nurses to UPMC and to bring people back who left UPMC," the hospital said.
The system said it will offer "competitive wages and excellent benefits that are unmatched by outside travel agencies, such as tuition assistance."