Travel nursing agencies seeing increase in demand in Minnesota, across US

The coronavirus continues to take its toll on hospital beds and hospital workers. It’s creating a demand for traveling healthcare workers who can help fill staffing shortages, including in intensive care units.

“It is a hard but necessary job,” said Allison Bell, a traveling ICU nurse from Oklahoma.

She’s currently assigned to Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

“When I started working six weeks ago, we had maybe eight to 10 COVID patients and the rest of our ICU was our typical population,” said Bell. “That has drastically changed now, every bed we have now is full of COVID ICU patients."

Bell has been working with COVID patients since the pandemic began, previously working in Rochester, Minnesota. She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that she’s relied on phone calls and Zoom visits to keep families updated on her patients’ conditions.

“The hardest part for me has been not being able to talk to families, not being able to kind of help them through this process, because having a family member in the ICU is extremely stressful,” she said. “These patients are really sick and they’re staying in the ICU for weeks, even months at a time."

Bell works with the agency Triage Staffing. The company helps healthcare providers connect with available nurses and other professionals.

CEO John Maaske told KSTP demand started picking up at the end of June, early July.

“Really by August, September things were moving pretty darn quickly and we saw probably 130% increase in demand,” he said.

He said early in the pandemic, they rushed to fill crisis jobs in areas like New York City. At the same time, some traveling healthcare professionals were without jobs as elective procedures halted.

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“Now we’ve seen a stark contrast to that,” said Maaske. “There’s just demand in nearly every single area.”

He said ICU and medical surgical nurses are among the highest in demand.

“It’s kind of getting to the point where there just aren’t enough of those professionals to fill the demands that are out there, it’s that bad right now,” he said.

They have a national network of professionals to place at healthcare companies across the country.

“It’s still challenging to find those skilled professionals in those specialties for sure because demand is so high,” said Maaske.

Bell is hopeful for a vaccine.

“I don’t think people understand just how worn out we are,” she said.

They’ve learned patients are able to breathe better if they are on their stomachs, which requires physically turning the patient. There is also an emotional toll.

“I’m having to hold patient’s hands because their family members aren’t able to get to the hospital in time before they die,” said Bell. “Especially with how drastically things are upticking here in the state, I can’t urge people enough to just stay home and try to limit their interactions with other people and just try to focus on the CDC guidelines.”