Travel nurses are making $11K a week to give COVID vaccines

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Travel nurses are raking in big bucks as the city’s public hospital system is filing its ranks with temps to give COVID shots, some earning as much as $11,000 a week.

The Health + Hospitals Corp. is supplementing its staff during the coronavirus outbreak with travel nurses from across the country who come for weeks or months at a time.

One local RN said she was recruited to do COVID-19 vaccinations at a rate of $70 an hour for a 40-hour week plus a stipend of $2,200 for a total of $5,000 a week. But she said she met other nurses at an orientation session and some said they would be pulling down $11,000 a week.

“If it was … to work in the ICU or the [emergency room], then it’s kind of like hazard pay,” she said. “But this is just to deliver immunizations.”

The nurse was recruited by Eminent, a Tennessee-based staffing agency which said it has been working with the public hospital system since April.

The system runs 11 hospitals including Elmhurst, which was overwhelmed with sick and dying patients at the height of the spring outbreak.

“We have several hundred people placed up there,” said Janet Tracy, the agency’s director of business development.

She said the nurses were placed at several H+H hospitals and declined to provide any information on how much they were getting paid.

Michael Fazio, who runs the Prime Staffing agency in Manhattan, said the company works with both H+H and the city’s private hospitals to provide nurses. He said the need has picked up in recent weeks similar to the spring surge when travel nurses poured into the Big Apple.

“The second we put 150 nurses in and I think ‘OK,  we’ll settle for a few days,’ bang we get another 250 needs,” he said.

The Prime Staffing nurses are typically paid $110 to $120 a hour, including a weekly stipend for expenses in New York. The agency provides housing, usually putting them up in one of the city’s hotels.

He said the greatest need was for RNs to work in ICUs, emergency departments and on medical-surgical units.

Fazio said hospitals were trying to stay ahead of the rising number of coronavirus patients.

“Until we get this vaccine out there, they just don’t know what the end result is so they don’t want to not be prepared,” he said.

The hospitals contract with the the staffing agencies which then recruit, screen and pay the nurses.

A Health + Hospitals spokesman said it brought on 43 registered nurses, 16 licensed practical nurses and three nurse leaders for the immunization effort, as well as other nurses for other areas. He would not comment on how much they were being paid or the amount spent by the system this year on travel nurses.

“In light of increasing Covid-19 infections, we are onboarding additional staff to ensure that there is adequate support across affected clinical areas in our system,” said Christopher Miller.

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