Severe nursing shortage has hospitals paying “travelers”
A shortage of nurses at U.S. hospitals hit West Virginia’s Charleston Area Medical Center at the worst possible time.
The non-profit healthcare system is one of the state’s largest employers and sits in the heart of economically depressed coal country. It faces a $40 million deficit this year as it struggles with fewer privately insured patients, cuts in government reimbursement and higher labor costs to attract a shrinking pool of nurses.
To keep its operations intact, Charleston Medical is spending this year $12 million on visiting or “travel” nurses, twice as much as three years ago. It had no need for travel nurses a decade ago.
“I’ve been a nurse 40 years, and the shortage is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Ron Moore, who retired in October from his position as vice president and chief nursing officer for the center. Charleston Area Medical’s incentives include tuition reimbursement for nursing students who commit to work at the hospital for two years.