NEWS
March 6, 2020

WA State Hospitals are Hiring Hundreds of Travel Nurses to Tackle Coronavirus (COVID-19)

WA State Hospitals are Hiring Hundreds of Travel Nurses to Tackle Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Angelina Walker By: Angelina Walker

Washington State's Governor, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency as cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise in Washington State.

The CDC in collaboration with King County is asking nurses from across the country to help area hospitals and healthcare centers tackle the virus. According to the Washington State Department of Health, as of March 6, 2020, there were 79 confirmed cases in Washington State and a total of 156 people under public health supervision. "Community transmission” is occurring in Kirkland, WA - a city that is located a few miles across the lake from Seattle. There, 10 elderly residents died, and several remain quarantined, from an outbreak in the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home.  

In this exclusive interview, we caught up with Mona Veiseh, President of NuWest Healthcare staffing agency who has been called on by King County to recruit nurses to staff area hospitals. NuWest Healthcare was tasked with staffing the Life Care Center of Kirkland in less than 24-hours, which is no easy task, but, local nurses “really rallied together to pick up shifts there,” says Mona. Life Care Center of Kirkland is considered "ground-zero" of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

Overall Mona says that the response from nurses to help throughout the area has been “awesome” and that they are “so willing to help their fellow nurses and the community.”  

Needs for more nurses in Washington State are growing - with over 200 open positions right now and growing on the east-side alone. Here’s what Mona had to say about the local efforts now and in the near future.

What will the nurses on the frontlines of COVID-19 in Washington State be doing? 

Nurses are needed in two areas in Washington state,

  • Backfill for the nurses who are, or will become quarantined.   
  • Working in the community - testing and monitoring individuals who are in quarantine with COVID-19.

 According to Mona, King County refers to these assignments as “strike nurses” but, she prefers to call them “engagement nurses” since the term “strike” has other meanings in the world of travel nursing.  

How are area hospitals responding?

 “Most hospitals are expecting to be impacted and all the local hospitals are rallying together to work this out in an organized manner,” says Mona. “If I were to count all the needs right now, I’d say there are over 200 open positions on the east-side (Kirkland, Bellevue, Issaquah) alone,” she continued.  

That is on top of the existing needs that were already in high demand before the outbreak. 

Why is the county bringing in travel nurses from other areas? 

Hospitals in the area are assigning the confirmed cases of COVID-19 to staff nurses first and the ratio is 1:1. Travel nurses are needed to help with backfill. Nurses are at risk to catch the virus and if they do, they will need to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travel nurses can help when that happens. 

How can local nurses help? 

Hospitals throughout Western Washington have open shifts. If you are a nurse and are available to pick up per diem shifts, chances are, they need you. 

We have seen pay rates of up to $4,000 per week - is that typical? 

The $4,000 per week pay rates that travel nurses have likely seen advertised were “hazard pay rates” to staff the Life Care Center in Kirkland where several elderly patients and those with compromised immune systems have been infected with Covid-19. However, rates, in general, are much higher right now throughout the region - around $2600 per week.

What nurses are most needed right now?

“We really need travel nurses, especially public health nurses, to come work here for at least 13-weeks,” says Mona. “These are urgently needed, with crisis pay. If they are able to start in March or April, even better,” she continued. 

Fully credentialed nurses are needed in all of the area hospitals. The most in-demand specialties include,

  • ICU
  • CVICU
  • Medical/Surgical
  • Emergency Department (ED)

In addition to nurses, hospitals also need,

  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)

What would you say to nurses who are considering helping?

“The biggest thing I’ve been in awe over is how much the nursing community has each other’s backs,” she said. We had a nurse from Florida call in today who simply said ‘put me anywhere, I can start as soon as possible, the community needs me,’” Mona recalled.

How Nurses and Healthcare Workers Can Help 

  • Click here to provide your contact information and specialty
  • Call NuWest's 24-Hour Hotline for Healthcare Workers:  425-531-7524
  • Email NuWest at [email protected]

Referrals and all other inquiries: [email protected] or call 425-531-7805

For up to date information on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) visit the Washington State Department of Health website. 

This is a developing situation, check back for updates.

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