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Heather Mayer, DOTmed News Reporter | December 28, 2010

“[Traveling nurses] are probably one of the top costs hospitals try to cut when looking at their budgets,” he says. “Any contracted staff paid a premium are usually the first to go, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. When you roll in your retention and your turnover and recruiting costs and benefits with the hourly rate [of contracted employees] you’re not far below what we would charge a hospital to send a contracted staff member in.”

And, Simmons points out, hospital administrators need to focus more on the revenue they can bring in by having a temporary nurse on staff.

“An administrator needs to ask themselves, does that travel nurse allow me an opportunity for additional reimbursement, and does that reimbursement justify the costs? Did the hospital have to redirect a patient due to inadequate staffing levels, and what was the potential loss of revenue not only short term but also long term?” Simmons says, explaining that a patient who was redirected to another hospital may continue to seek care from that hospital — a missed opportunity for the short-staffed facility.

In addition to the revenue patients bring in when a hospital is well-equipped, travel nurses help relieve staff nurses who are burnt out from being overworked. In the long-term, keeping nurses fresh and well-rested can help hospitals save costs.

“Staff burnout leads to high turnover,” says Simmons. “This turnover costs most hospitals hundreds of thousands a year. Lowering the nurse-to-patient ratio by utilizing temporary staff during peak census levels can help alleviate this burnout and decrease turnover costs.”

Now that reimbursements for hospitals will vary depending on the quality of care, overworked nurses can be detrimental to receiving optimum reimbursement rates.

View from the floor
Travel Nurses Solution’s Tina Fowler from South Carolina is based in a Virginia hospital’s pain clinic. She worked a yearlong assignment at the facility before taking a break and then returning, where she is currently serving a 13-week assignment. Fowler has been with Travel Nurses Solution, whose parent company is Jackson Healthcare, for seven years, and she often works just five to six months out of the year.

Fowler, an ICU nurse, enjoys the freedom she has working as a travel nurse. But the downside is being away from her husband and children, she says.

“The worst part is being away from home no doubt,” she says. “When I worked full time, I was working five nights a week [in 12-hours shifts]. When did my kids really see me anyway? They see me more now.”

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