Traveling nurses help fill gaps at short-staffed hospitals

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As hospitals locally and nationwide deal with significant staffing shortages, the demand for traveling nurses has greatly increased.

One of those nurses, Michigan native Paula Sapala, said she knew as soon as the COVID-19 crisis became a pandemic she needed to jump back into action. She eventually ended up in Rhode Island, going around to different sites and getting people vaccinated against the disease.

Sapala told 12 News she’s been a nurse for 40 years, but prior to the pandemic, she had taken on other roles as a stay-at-home mother, model and business owner.

“I started this when COVID was first identified,” she recalled. “I was looking for jobs before jobs were even posted. I wanted to serve humanity. It was my honor.”

Having also worked in Michigan, Colorado and New Hampshire, Sapala said in her travels, she’s found New Englanders seem to have the best attitudes toward getting vaccinated versus people in other regions.

“There were 10-hour days at facilities, and you might have 10 clients. And it’s a free vaccine,” she said of working in other states.

Local hospital groups say they’re employing traveling nurses like Sapala. Care New England said it currently has 50 at Kent Hospital and 19 at Women and Infants, while Lifespan told 12 News that 4% of their registered nurses are traveling.

“While we would prefer to hire our own nurses, we are utilizing travelling/contracted nurses as a temporary measure due to a nationwide staffing shortage of health care workers,” Lifespan spokesperson Kathleen Hart explained.

As of Monday, more than 75% of Rhode Islanders were at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, according to R.I. Department of Health data.

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