HOUSTON - Healthcare workers have been called heroes since the COVID-19 pandemic began and with good reason. They wrap their bodies from head to toe in special gear to take care of the sickest patients.
One job that’s thriving during the pandemic: travel nurse. The need has never been greater.
We caught up with a nurse from Tulsa who travels to Houston to help our local hospitals. With medical facilities often at capacity, more help is needed. That’s where registered nurses, like Jerry Holbrook come in.
“It is very rewarding, but at the same time very challenging. Just dealing with patients who are extremely sick and ill and dying and not able to have family members at the bedside, and it makes it very difficult on the nurses. I think that's probably the biggest complaint I hear from nurses,” explains Jerry.
It's emotionally tough on them. Jerry says the challenges are worth it though. He certainly thrives on being able to help where it’s needed most. He leaves his family in Oklahoma to work on COVID units at hospitals in Houston.
“We’re already isolated. I mean I live in a travel trailer. So, the only people I see on a day to day basis are people I work with at the hospital. So you're not taking it home to your family possibly, and they (other local nurses) are going home to children, the people that live local. So I think it probably just makes more sense for us to do it,” explains Jerry.
Jerry works for Fastaff Travel Nursing, a company that typically sends nurses to communities in need, for everything from a flu outbreak to natural disasters. They’ve sent nurses to more than 300 facilities in 45 states.
“This year alone, we've sent over 600% more nurses to Texas than we did last year, and a quarter of those are always going to the Houston area: Beaumont, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Pasadena. So we've got many nurses in the Houston area and have been there this this entire year,” explains Lauren Pasquale Bartlett, the Senior VP of Marketing at Fastaff Travel Nursing.
She is beyond proud of their large group of traveling nurses.
“The thing that always blows me away about our nurses is how brave they are. And when this really started ramping up at the end of February and the beginning of March, we had orders on our website that started escalating quickly and the applications on our website were at three or four times higher than they were during the normal flu season, which is where we would have been in March. These nurses put their hand up, they want to go into these situations. They run into the fire, they're brave, they're dedicated, nurses like Jerry, who's in the Houston area right now, are trained for this and they're ready for it. I've spoken to nurses who say what they've seen this year has been different than a normal flu season or normal outbreak that they might typically see it this time of year, because the symptoms of COVID were so dramatic that they had to learn on the fly, and they had to try new tactics and new techniques, new procedures to keep the patients healthy,” explains Lauren.
They've figured out how to do it and are monetarily compensated for their hard work and dedication.
“It's very typical for traveling nurse assignments to have an elevated hourly pay, because a traveling nurse doesn't know really what they're going into. It may be a short-term assignment, it may be a long-term assignment, it may extend, so they've got to go in with a little bit of cushion to make up for that. At the same time, they're usually going into situations where the urgency is very escalated, so they're probably going to work 48-hour weeks. They're likely replacing over-worked staff, over-tired staff, so they're going into a difficult situation. They call themselves the Special Forces of Nursing. Our agency will cover their travel, their housing, and we also provide benefits from the start of the assignment through the end of the assignment. We'll find them a hotel, we’ll get them a plane ticket, or if they want to drive, we reimburse them for miles. We take care of their travel, so that they can focus on taking care of the patients,” explains Lauren.
During the pandemic, many travel nurses are staying in one location for up to three months at a time. Jerry is able to travel back and forth from Oklahoma to see his family.
For more information, https://www.fastaff.com