Sophia Morris, vice president of account management at Aya Healthcare, said California has the second highest number of positions posted for nurses, exceeded only by Texas.
Nationwide more than 52,000 temporary health care jobs are posted, and Aya is only able to fill about 3,000 per week, she said.
"In the 16 years I’ve been in this space, I have never seen this high a need," Morris said.
That need is creating intense competition for a limited pool of nurses nationwide.
"Nurses are getting paid premiums to work in Texas and Florida where it’s surging right now," Sugarman said. "Those nurses have to come from somewhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some are coming from California."
Hospitals have been paying twice as much as pre-pandemic times for travelers, Morris said.
To entice nurses to come to California, the state Department of Public Health agreed to pay up to $145 per hour for Aya's ICU nurses and more if a facility had a "critical need." Stovall, who works for Aya, said between October and December 2020, she was paid $10,000 per week with an additional $2,000 if she picked up an extra shift.
It’s working — but not without consequences.
The money is pulling full-time staff nurses into traveling positions, further aggravating the staffing shortage nationwide. Stovall, who is based in North Carolina, said her sister-in-law took a week’s vacation from a full-time nursing gig to pick up an $8,000 traveling contract. She also convinced a longtime friend, Candace Brim, to leave her staff position and travel during the height of the pandemic in December.
"Everywhere we go people ask, 'Can we get your recruiter’s number? We’ve given it out 20 times,'" she said.