Regional Medical Center offering $70 an hour compensation program for nurses amid shortage

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 8:44 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. – (WIS) As COVID-19 continues to put a strain on hospitals, some across the state are experiencing nursing shortages. The Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Orangeburg is taking a unique approach to step up its nurse recruiting efforts.

Compassionate Care Close to Home. As the only acute care provider serving Orangeburg, Calhoun, Bamberg and Barnwell counties, Regional Medical Center offers a broad range of medical services with an emphasis on meeting the specific health care needs of the community.

RMC is launching a compensation program that would pay eligible critical care nurses up to $70 an hour for 13 weeks.

David Southerland, RMC President, and CEO said since the program got underway three weeks ago, the hospital has already filled nine of its 30 critical care nurse openings.

He believes anxieties associated with the pandemic could be contributing to the shortage.

“You know just a lot of stress in the healthcare environment right now with COVID-19,” Southerland said. “A lot of people are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they should wear appropriate protective equipment or not. We provide all of that for them as a part of our supplies. But I think just a great deal of anxiety.”

He said competitive rates in markets like Columbia and Charleston could also be among the factors associated with their RN shortage.

For RMC, a driving force behind the program is easing the burden placed on its current nursing staff.

“About three weeks ago out of discussions with our senior leadership team we were trying to figure out how we staff our emergency department, primarily came out of a discussion with our emergency department,” Southerland said. “And we were having some challenges with just trying to get people to agree to cover extra shifts under the normal compensation and overtime and that wasn’t working.”

The hospital was looking to fill openings through contracts with travel nursing agencies, but Southerland said they could not provide enough nurses to meet the need.

That $70 hourly rate is more than 60 percent higher than the hospital’s typical top wage for nurses. According to hospital officials, RMC’s typical rate for RNs is between $35-42 an hour, depending on the level of experience.

By not paying even higher wages for a number of travel nurses, Southerland said the hospital is saving money with this endeavor.

“We’re also trying to figure out how we can reduce our expenses by cutting out the middle man,” he said. So by not having as many travel agency contracts, we’re saving quite a bit of money by doing it that way.”

The program is slated to run until the end of this year. Southerland said its viability will be evaluated in January, and these temporary contracts could potentially be extended.

“If there’s still vacancies in the market and we’re still looking for people we’ll maybe do another several weeks on top of that,” Southerland said. “But as long as there’s openings, we’re going to continue with it.”

Southerland said if all positions are filled and there is less covid spread in the community, the hospital may look at an overall wage adjustment for its nurses.

RMC officials said they are working on additional ways to recruit and retain nurses beyond normal recruiting channels through the talent acquisition department.

“We’re also contracting with outside firms to recruit in large what we call bulk recruiting, through nurses where we commit to a bigger term kind of contract to recruit in 30 nurses at a set recruiting rate,” Southerland said.

He added that RMC has recently hired a few nurses through this bulk recruiting process.

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