UPMC cuts some travel nurses' pay

Pittsburgh-based UPMC is making changes to its travel staffing program, including cutting the base rate for some travel nurses, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Jan. 23. 

The report cited a TikTok video posted over the weekend by Erica, a Las Vegas-based hospice nurse and social media influencer who asked not to share her last name and goes by the pseudonym "Nurse Erica." 

In a video posted on Facebook about the issue, Erica said the new base pay rate for many internal travelers would be $72 an hour, 15.3% less than the $85 an hour they had previously earned. A UPMC spokesperson confirmed to Becker's that the reported pay change is accurate.

The Post-Gazette also reported that UPMC changed the pay cycle for travel allowances and eliminated overtime work.

UPMC in December 2021 created UPMC Travel Staffing, an in-house travel staffing agency designed to address a nursing shortage and retain workers. 

Through the agency, nurses and surgical technologists earned $85 an hour and $63 an hour, respectively, in addition to a $2,880 stipend at the beginning of each six-week assignment.

Last year, UPMC announced a new regional option as part of the program. Maribeth McLaughlin, BSN, RN, chief nursing executive for UPMC, told Becker's in June that the approach provides a new option for nurses and surgical technologists who desire to travel. As of June, the rate was about $60 an hour for those who opted for the regional approach, and UPMC had hired more than 700 staff into the in-house travel staffing program, with 60% of those workers being external hires.

UPMC Chief Communications Officer Paul Wood, in a statement shared with Becker's on Jan. 23, said that since the travel staffing program was created, the healthcare landscape across the U.S. has continued to change, with a shift away from external agency use, including a rapid decrease in contract rates.

"The UPMC travel staffing program is now evolving, as others have across the country. We have made significant progress to stabilize our site-specific nursing workforce," Mr. Wood said.

He also said the UPMC travel program will "continue as an important part of our commitment to patients and staff, with premium pay for that workforce." 

Additionally, Mr. Wood said the UPMC Travel Staffing Agreement is not a contract and "was intended as a way to ensure that employees understood the program as it existed when they started. It states in that agreement that the agreement is not an employment agreement."

A 38-year-old traveling UPMC nurse, who asked not to be identified by the Post-Gazette, estimated that 380 of the nurses who travel to the farthest hospitals in the health system will be affected by the change. 

Read the full Post-Gazette report here.

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