Coronavirus, flu season have many hospitals relying on traveling nurses

Posted at 9:46 PM, Oct 30, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, traveling nurses jump from hot spot to hot spot, caring for patients and making sure hospitals are fully staffed. Grover Street is one of those nurses and specializes in trauma and intensive care.

“I’ve worked in over 100 hospitals and probably 15 different states,” Street said.

Street says just this year alone, he's been in New York, Miami, and California. He hops all over the country, doing four-week assignments for crisis nursing and coronaivurs relief. "Busy" and "intense" barely describe what he's experienced on the front lines.

“I like going to the hot zones and really learning about this virus and learning about the different patients and human functionality and the way people think about this whole process because it’s probably never going to happen in my lifetime again,” Street said.

While interesting from a scientific standpoint, he admits, it's natural to be afraid of this virus that has taken over our world.

“I’ve worked with nurses that their families died, the nurse died,” Street said. “I worked with a physician, he died. This is real and I’ve been on the front lines since it started and its sad that a lot of people aren’t wearing masks and social distancing.”

He says he prefers the traveling nurse aspect of his profession. There's more flexibility, and he says, it's better pay. As a former trauma nurse in the military, it's like a deployment. Except this time, he's being sent to a different type of war zone.

“New York is starting to pick back up, Florida is starting to pick back up,” Street said. “I’m getting texts and emails everyday, 'Am I ready to go somewhere else as soon as this assignment ends?'”

Lauren Pasquale Bartlett is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Fastaff Travel Nursing, the agency for whom Street works. When asked how her organization fulfills the need, she said, “It's never a matter of how are we going to do it, it's at what scale.”

“At this time last year, we had 3,000 nurses on assignment right, now we’ve got 6,000,” Pasquale Bartlett added.

Traveling nurses, she says, have been backfilling hospitals for 30 years.

“It really came out of the strike business when nurses were unionizing and going on strikes, they needed replacement nurses so the hospital started bringing in travel nurses to replace those striking nurses,” Pasquale Bartlett said.

They answer the call when there are hurricanes, fires, intense flu seasons, and the coronavirus. Except, unlike those other short-lived events, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

“I know everybody (is) tired of what’s going on, ready to get back out there, go shopping, have parties, but we need to control this before you die or before your family member dies and then it’s too late so just stay safe,” Street said.

Street says the difference between responses in each state is fascinating. He's looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation before his next assignment and says his only wish is that everyone does their part, by washing hands, and wearing a mask to help protect medical staff and each other.