Traveling nurses nearly double in South Carolina during pandemic

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:18 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Throughout the pandemic, hundreds of traveling nurses are still making stops in Charleston to help in local hospitals.

A local recruiting agency said the number of traveling nurses across the state has nearly doubled since the pandemic started.

Roper St. Francis said it has 150 traveling nurses on staff. MUSC said 126 of its nurses are traveling.

“There’s been a big push for med-surg and PCU, which is a step down from ICU and ICU nurses,” said Valarie Yarborough, recruiting manager at ATC Healthcare.

ATC Healthcare in Charleston is an agency that oversees traveling nurse assignments and contracts. The agency said it’s not just contracts for nurses on the rise. They said it’s also a push for more pay.

“When we do have those spikes and hospitals are really panicking and trying to get people in, you’re looking at the lowest rates at $95 an hour, to $160,” said Yarborough.

Sheena Austin has been a traveling nurse for 3.5 years, working in places like Pennsylvania, Texas and South Carolina.

“They do give you all of the requirements for your assignments. They tell you where you’re going, and they tell you what the pay packets will include for you,” Austin said.

Austin said while working in South Carolina before the pandemic, she was bringing in between $1,500 and $3,500 dollars a week.

“Now, local contracts have gone up because of the need. Right about now, I’m seeing about $3,500 to $5,000,” said Austin.

ATC Healthcare said the call for traveling nurses has pushed some hospitals to do auto-offers. The agency said that includes hiring nurses solely based off qualifications and experience.

“That started to happen a lot during COVID because there were so many needs, just to get rid of that interview process,” said Yarborough.

The agency said it expects the need for traveling nurses to stay around, even after the pandemic ends.

“Some places have maybe one regular staff nurse. There’s been a lot of traveling nurse staff in the hospitals,” Austin said.

According to ATC Healthcare, during the peak of COVID, the agency contracted nearly 325 nurses across South Carolina in only a couple of months.

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