Faced with staff shortage, UPMC triples the salaries of those joining its new corps of itinerant nurses
The UPMC is launching what it calls an in-house recruiting agency for traveling nurses early next year.
These personnel will be a new category of UPMC employees who will receive higher pay for being part of a corps that is deployed across the system to 40 hospitals on six-week assignments.
Travel nurses and surgical technicians registered with UPMC will earn $ 85 and $ 63 per hour, respectively. These rates are two to three times the wages advertised by current UPMC job advertisements. Finally, travel missions could be opened to other levels of nursing care as well as respiratory therapists.
This initiative comes amid a nationwide nursing shortage. The high demand has led many registered nurses to leave their hospitals for travel assignments where they could earn as much as $ 12,000 per week.
“We are losing nurses to agencies, people who want to travel and they are looking for a higher salary. So it’s a way to reconnect with them and bring them back, ”said John Galley, director of human resources for the medical system.
UPMC said it used multiple agencies in 2021 as turnover is said to have more than doubled from 2020 when it claimed it did not need travel nurses. In 2022, the medical system is looking to hire up to 800 RNs and surgical technicians.
While she declined to say exactly how much the UPMC paid hospital staff with travel nurses this year, Nursing Executive Director Holly Lorenz revealed it was “more than what we want to spend” .
Because so much of what the hospital system currently pays for a travel nurse goes to the agencies that run the internships, Lorenz said UPMC will end up saving money by doing the internships itself.
One way the medical system could poach nurses from established agencies is that, as UPMC employees, travelers will enjoy the same benefits as staff nurses. Stability can be very appealing, even in cases where UPMC’s hourly rate is lower than what someone can get from an agency position.
These benefits include retirement and retirement plans, as well as health insurance. Although many travel agencies offer insurance, this coverage is often not extended to nurses between assignments. But unlike agency nurses, UPMC travelers will have less flexibility in deciding when and where to take assignments.
Another benefit of travel nursing is the trip; someone can see the country while making money. In contrast, some of UPMC’s most heavily used hospitals are located in rural communities that are not tourist destinations. Lorenz doesn’t think this will put off potential employees; she says many former UPMC nurses who quit to take travel assignments have done so to pay off student loans.
“Our plan is therefore to provide a competitive salary,” said Lorenz.
Nurses must be working for at least one year before being accepted into the travel program.
The creation of the travel body can strengthen the social relations of the UPMC. There is often resentment on the part of nurses when their hospitals pay significantly higher rates to temporary workers doing the same work. Dependence on staffing agencies was a primary complaint cited by nurses at the System’s Altoona Hospital during a demonstration this week.
Sandy Wagner, a nurse in the Altoona Intensive Care Unit, told WESA News that while she didn’t know all the details about the new travel body, “I know that in order to keep experienced nurses by the bedside. patient, UPMC needs to work with us and invest in long-term solutions rather than temporary fixes to deal with the staffing crisis that our hospital is facing. “
Lorenz says this is a long-term solution for the UPMC which will be around long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
In the short term, she anticipates a need for travel staff within all UPMC hospitals. Current UPMC nurses and surgical technicians who join the traveling corps will not be placed at the site they are leaving for at least six months. Likewise, employees who resign to work for an outside travel agency are not allowed to return to their former place of employment for one year.
Kiley Koscinski and Brett Sholtis contributed to this report.