The need for nurses continues to grow as the Lone Star state sees an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
Health officials are fearing the worst as another serge is on the horizon. Both Bell and McLennan counties have hospitalization rates above 15 percent, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard. Health care facilities across Texas have asked for more support staff due to the increase, but that request was denied by the state.
However, one group is helping fill the void.
The demand for traveling nurses spiked multiple times throughout the last year and a half. The need for their expertise remains constant as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise yet again.
"As we see the uptick, we're all starting to feel the angst of what may come next," said Karen Fountain, Director of Nursing at Fastaff Travel Nursing. As a nurse herself, Fountain has worked on Coronavirus units throughout the pandemic.
Fountain said, "The experience, it's hard to describe. It was emotionally gut-wrenching at most points."
Day after day, she saw the need for the services her agency provides increase. The need now, has more than doubled.
"Going forward, we've already seen a large uptick, our business has seen the demand has gone up three to five times," Fountain said. "Typically when the census goes up above 70 percent, we come in and fill the need to take care of the patients. So we have been critical and have them for the last year and a half, that tells you that patients are still getting as sick as they did with COVID."
The need for traveling nurses coming on the heels of an ongoing nursing shortage.
Amy Mersoivsky, the Director of Nursing, A&M Central Texas said, "We've been in a nursing shortage for years and the COVID epidemic has only increased that. Just the sheer impact of COVID makes me think that that's going to remain a problem."
Mersoivsky said, COVID-19 has only amplified the demand. She believes there are lots of factors that have led to what research expects to lead to thousands of vacant nursing jobs by 2032 in the state of Texas alone.
"I think we also have an ageing group of nurses, working at the bedside clinics, etc. and they are starting to retire. We also have a problem of maintaining our new nurses in the profession," she said. "There's a lot of data out there showing that many nurses will leave within the first five years of being a nurse."
Mersoivsky said travel nurses are an asset when it comes to staffing shortages.
"Travel nurses are supposed to be experienced nurses who can come in and take care of anybody in any situation," Mersoivsky said. "They can kind of go to the hot-spots and take care of patients on a dime. They can be very helpful during that interim time frame and of just really the overload but they can be expensive."
Fountain is aware of the projected shortage but still she remains optimistic and cheers on her fellow nurses.
"You're never alone and you can get through the fight. We got through it once, and we're going to get through it again," she said.