Do nurses have a responsibility to physically distance and how do travel nurses stay safe on the road? Here are the things nurses are thinking about and struggling with as they are travel nursing during COVID-19.
Do Nurses Have a Responsibility to Physically Distance?
Travel nurses and other healthcare workers are all asking themselves – what responsibility do I have to physically distance in order to keep my patients safe? Some have come to the conclusion that they work hard, and they are forced to focus on COVID-19 so much while they are working. When they’re done with their shift, they need that drink with friends or to sit down for family dinner with their relatives. Others are still isolating when they return home. They’re keeping their circles small, and continuing to use technology to connect with others outside of the hospital.
For travel nurses, this question is even harder to answer because you ARE traveling. Therefore, you have to balance the required travel to and from assignments with the tempting recreational you typically take as a travel nurse.
I recognize these questions (and the various answers to them) quickly become heated debate these days. It’s never easy to know what the right thing is to do. This is especially the case when everyone has such strong opinions, and researchers still don’t have concrete answers. There’s also this struggle to protect yourself from the virus while also keeping your mental health in check.
How Do Travel Nurses Stay Safe When Transferring Assignments?
Travel nurses have to follow the same guidelines as everyone else while they are traveling. Recent studies are showing that flying is safer than you would think. With most people complying to mask mandates and businesses taking extra safety measures, travel is relatively safe for a travel nurse. This is not to say they can’t get sick while traveling to and from the assignment. However, as long as they physically distance, follow guidelines, and avoid interacting with the public as much as possible, they can minimize their risk.
When they arrive on assignment, each healthcare facility has its own protocol for COVID-19 screening prior to the nurses entering the building. This can also vary depending on what department the nurses work in, and the risk level of the patients they will be caring for.
All of these tough questions and situations to navigate are just some of the ways the pandemic is affecting travel nurses.
How Has the Pandemic Changed Travel for Nurses?
1. Extended contracts
Some travel nurses had their contracts extended when the pandemic first hit. This was mainly because it wasn’t possible to leave, and hospitals needed all hands on deck.
2. Canceled contracts
Other travel nurses had their contracts canceled completely for one reason or another. This got to the point where some nurses had already traveled to a new city and had nowhere to live when they arrived due to canceled contracts.
3. Increased safety risk
The most obvious way the pandemic affects travel nurses is that they face an increased safety risk at work. It’s no secret that nurses are struggling to find N95 masks and that they have to come in close contact with people who are infected with the virus. This threatens their safety, no matter how many extra measures they take outside of work.
4. Expanded regulations
There have been expanded regulations as a result of the pandemic, like the additional safety measures mentioned above. Nurses have to go through COVID-19 screenings, may need to get tested more frequently than others, and some even have their ability to travel limited.
5. Licensing changes
The process to get a multi-state license as a travel nurse was altered to streamline approvals. This is because nurses were needed and fast.
6. Crisis pay
Nurses who responded to crisis areas, or parts of the country where virus outbreaks were spreading rapidly, received higher pay for taking those assignments. More risk equals more reward. However, once things settled down, nurses had to go back to making traditional pay rates, sometimes even if they were caring for COVID patients. Experts predict that there will be a second wave of COVID this fall, and so with that, we expect travel nurse crisis pay will return too.
What are your biggest struggles or questions about travel nursing during COVID-19? What do you think — do nurses have a responsibility to physicall distance? Talk with us in the comments below!