Last December, as Vermonters chopped down Christmas trees, breathed life into inflatable reindeer and placed glowing menorahs in their windows, COVID-19-related hospitalizations surged.
State health officials warned that a new Omicron variant had likely been in local communities for a while, becoming the state’s most dominant strain in just one week. Hospitals, understaffed and reeling from one long shift that seems to have lasted years, began to fill again. As they reached out for help from agencies to fill holes in staffing, the cost to hire a traveling nurse skyrocketed, increasing 100 percent.
The high rates were directly tied to demand, sometimes changing week to week as the need grew, said Mary Broadworth, vice president of human resources for the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Nurse staffing agencies, which existed long before the pandemic, recruit nurses from across the country to fill temporary positions at health care facilities, generally positions hospitals have no other way of filling and need to staff to adequately care for patients. Agencies make money by taking a portion of the payment they secure for their nurses and charging other fees. Continue reading