Strike in St Vincent Hospital Causes Surge in Strike Jobs for Travel Nurses
If you’re new to the travel nursing career path, one thing you will learn quickly is that travel nursing contracts that cover employment when hospital staff nurses go on strike can be lucrative. When travel nurses are discussing with their recruiters their options for their next placement, they typically take into consideration three factors. The offered rates near or around cities that are on their “wish list”, the competition of those desired contracts, and then the experienced ones ask about travel assignments involving travel strike pay.
Nursing strikes organized by facility staff are an important part of balancing the needs and wants of staff and the needs and wants of the facilities, of that there is no question. Unfortunately, when negotiations can’t reach an amenable conclusion for both sides, and a strike becomes a bargaining tool. When a strike goes into effect, that doesn’t mean that all the hospital patients just magically heal and leave the facility empty until the nurses and healthcare workers on strike come back to work.
What happens to those patients in the hospital that can’t leave? They continue to require compassionate and competent care, and here is where the travel nurses come in and save the day for each of those patients deserving of care.
The St Vincent nurses strike seems to remain at a standstill. This week the strike will exceed any other in the state’s history, an unfortunate title at an unfortunate time. With the alarming rise of confirmed COVID cases, the hospital is taking steps to secure more temporary healthcare workers including travel nurses offered strike pay.
In response to the rapid rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the Delta variant reached its beachy shores, the state of California responded decisively and -for some- controversially. The California Department of Public Health released a mandate for Health Care Worker Vaccine Requirement on August 5, 2021. Excerpts taken directly from the order to follow:
“At present, 63% of Californians 12 years of age and older are fully vaccinated with an additional 10% partially vaccinated. California is currently experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 18.3 new cases per 100,000 people per day, with case rates increasing ninefold within two months.
“Vaccinations have been available in California from December 2020 to the present, and from January 1, 2021, to July 12, 2021, a total of 9,371 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks and 113,196 outbreak-related cases were reported to CDPH. Increasing numbers of health care workers are among the new positive cases, despite vaccinations being prioritized for this group when vaccines initially became available. Recent outbreaks in health care settings have frequently been traced to unvaccinated staff members.
“All workers who provide services or work in facilities described in subdivision (a) have their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by September 30, 2021.”
The order further outlines that healthcare workers have until September 30th to comply with the vaccination requirements. Furthermore, it allows for vaccine exemption based either on religious beliefs or medical exemptions but stipulates PCR rapid testing must be completed twice a week in such cases.
Not even two full weeks following the mandate, on August 16th, California’s governor issued an executive order renewing the prior state of emergency order that includes emergency allowances including easing the way for health care staff to come from other states to help staffing shortages.
Staffing shortages at hospitals state-wide are reaching crisis levels, and several hospitals are investigating consolidating their departments as they attempt to meet community needs. Attorney for the California Hospital Association Lois Richardson emphasized the dire situation stating, ” “All of our hospitals are saying staffing is a big problem. We have fewer personnel than at the beginning of the pandemic and more patients.”
The vaccine order affects over 2 million workers in the state, and unsurprisingly protests are popping up. As worker tensions rise, and staff nurses join protests, job contracts for vaccinated travel nurses are surging, along with the attached pay packages. Currently, Elite Specialty Staffing has hundreds of travel nurse contracts across the state of California offering hourly pay rates as high as $52.60 an hour, over $4,000 in weekly gross pay.
As tensions between health care workers in California increase and the September 30th deadline approaches, it’s not unlikely that in the face of a now mandatory vaccine we’ll see travel nursing strike jobs with urgent demand.
Some of our travel nurses are able to work strike travel contracts without problem, while others are intrigued by the strike pay but feel conflicted about the role it places upon them. It’s important to acknowledge that lucrative pay shouldn’t be the only thing attracting you to a travel nurse contract. That said, if you can’t resolve your internal feelings about working a strike contract, then it’s best for you to look elsewhere.
However, consider the importance of the work of a travel nurse operating a strike contract from the perspective of a patient who is in the hospital at the time of the strike, requiring care. That patient should not suffer neglect of their medical needs due to conflict between staff and facility, and if you can make that your focus instead of concerns that you may be undermining the nurse strike effort, perhaps you can have peace enough for yourself to provide compassionate and skilled care to those patients who are not on either side of the negotiation, yet involuntarily caught in the middle while vulnerable.