ORANGEBURG, S.C. — South Carolina hospitals, including the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg (RMC), are experiencing a shortage of nurses.
"The shortage of nurses has made it very difficult to be a nurse right now," said Karrie Powell, Regional Medical Center's Chief Nursing Officer. "A lot of nurses are tired. We're missing breaks, and they are working overtime. What we need is more support."
As a short-term solution, the RMC is offering a temporary program that will allow nurses to receive additional compensation for up to 13 weeks. David Southerland, the hospital's President & CEO, says competition with travel nursing agencies is a significant factor posing a challenge with their critical care nurses.
"For example, if you're making $35 to $45 per hour, and they are offering you $55 to $60 an hour, that's probably something you would look at," Southerland explained. "That's part of our reason for putting in this strategy in paying $70 per hour to keep them local."
Eligible nurses in the program will receive $70 per hour. To make those higher wages, applicants must have experience in the emergency department, progressive care unit, intensive care unit or critical care unit to be hired in the program. RMC's President and CEO says the program is being funded with additional money from eliminating contracts of travel nursing agencies.
"We've been relying upon travel nursing agencies to come to fill those vacancies," said Southerland. "Travel nurses are very expensive. They range anywhere from $120 to $150 per hour."
The RMC expects to reassess the program in January. The hospital's chief nursing officer says she has nine people hired in the program so far.
"Those folks are coming as we speak. But, in the meantime, the temporary nurses can take some of those vacancies, or they can at least support us until we can get enough staff in place to take care of our patients," Powell said.
The long-term goal is to hire 30 new people on staff.