Many nurses, who were, of course, the frontline workers of the pandemic, have left their jobs in recent years due to burnout and exhaustion.
While the worst of COVID is, hopefully, behind us, the nurse shortage persists.
“As you ‘ve seen across the nation, it’s been a real challenge: shortages across the board in health care,” Diane Hansen, Palomar Health’s CEO, told NBC 7 on Thursday.
During the pandemic, some nurses retired and others changed career paths, but Rosalyn Embry joined the front lines.
“It was very emotionally and physically draining,” said Embry, a registered nurse.
Hansen said that, during the pandemic, Palomar Health hired 250 traveling nurses to combat the staffing shortage. Now, though, she wants to reduce the number of traveling nurses working their system. One way the health care center is hoping to do that is by transitioning traveling nurses to permanent positions.
The other option is recruiting nurses who left the field — and recruiting those who are new to the profession — through a $100,000 Nurse Incentive Program.
“We’re trying to attract some of the nurses coming out of school and make them choose us before looking at someone else,” Hansen said.
Giving nurses a permanent role keeps them engaged, said Hansen, and gives them job stability, which is better for patients.
Mel Russell oversees more than 1,800 nurses at Palomar Health. He said the $100,000 incentive will be paid over three years and is on top of a nurse’s average hourly rate of $30-$40. Palomar Health will also be doing everything it can to be flexible with scheduling as well.
“We’re trying to accommodate what they need or what they want from a nursing work-life balance,” Russell said.
Embry thinks it will all go a long way to preventing burnout.
“I think, as long as the hospitals can keep their units properly staffed to where we can, you know, have the time to take our breaks fully, to get help if we need it and not being short — break nurses are a resource,” Embry said. “I think that maintains everybody in a place where they can avoid burnout.”
Russell said he would like to see anywhere from 200-300 registered nurses join the incentive program. He said he understands nursing has always been a stressful field, but it seems like health care is getting back to normal after the pandemic.