(WGHP) — North Carolina has become a hotspot for travel nurses due to staff shortages in hospitals across the state.

Nurses from all over the country are coming here not just for the competitive pay but to help fill thousands of vacancies. For the last month, South Carolina resident Jamie Tutson has been traveling back and forth to work at Cone Health Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.

She’s never taken a travel contract in her entire 10-year career, but she says right that now, the pay is too good to pass up, and the need is dire. 

“Honestly, it’s my first time traveling, and the pay was what made me decide to do it. My husband lost his job due to COVID. He’s lost two jobs thanks to COVID. The pay is just high for travel nursing altogether just because the shortage is so bad country-wide right now…I’ve never seen the pay rates like this,” Tutson said.

North Carolina hospitals are paying top dollar amid a severe nursing shortage.

“It’s about double what I was making. You do get a travel stipend and things like that. It makes it almost three times what I was making at home. You know a family struggling to get out of debt, you can’t turn that down.” Tutson said.

Her search landed her in the oncology unit at Cone Health Wesley Long Hospital. She got there in December, and the calls have already started coming in from other hospitals around the state.

“I’ve had several recruiters reaching out to see if I’m interested in going to their company and to this next hospital since I’ve started this contract. I’m sticking with the one I have, but I’ve had about four other recruiters reach out to me to see if I’m interested in moving to their hospital,” Tutson said.

It’s not just the money that brought her to Greensboro, it was the vast need for help. Hospitals all over the state are struggling. A spokesperson with Novant Health says their healthcare system has experienced staff shortages for some time, and the pandemic has only made them worse.

“Like healthcare systems across the country, we are being impacted by a national nursing shortage, which existed prior to the pandemic and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic,” Novant Health Spokesperson said. “Novant Health has implemented programs prior to the pandemic and in response to the pandemic. Resources and efforts include: 

  • Activation of additional staff sourcing, as needed, including float and on-call pools, contract staff and travel nurses.
  • Competitive compensation incentives aimed toward recruiting and retaining registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and other clinical professional support staff.
  • A nurse residency program for new graduate nurses to create a pipeline of strong, clinical professionals. This program was launched in 2017, has had over 2,000 residents and is accredited by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
  • Launched clinical extender and liaison programs, which enables clinical and non-clinical team members to volunteer for additional shifts in support of frontline team members. Team members are compensated for their time.

With patients starting to outnumber staff, current nurses aren’t confident that money alone can bring in desperately needed help.

“I know so many nurses that have left the profession altogether. They’re just burnt out. COVID seems like it really has just wreaked havoc on everybody. It’s exhausting, but when you’re compensated financially, it does make it a lot better,” Tutson said.