Washington hospitals consider cutting travel nurses in wake of financial losses

Some financially struggling Washington hospitals plan to trim costs by cutting travel nurses, the Spokane Journal of Business reported Oct. 20. 

Renton-based Providence's Inland Northwest hospitals are having their worst financial year since the pandemic's onset, CFO Shelby Stokoe told the newspaper. Meanwhile, Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System's Inland Northwest Region has seen a $256 million operating loss through August, according to CEO Alec Jackson. 

Together, Providence's Inland Northwest and MultiCare's Inland Northwest divisions employ 3,000 nurses, according to the Journal

Staffing shortages have increased the hospitals' reliance on travel nurses, though this has proved financially unsustainable, according to Bloomberg editors. Registered nurses on staff in the health systems' Inland Northwest divisions make about $78,300 per year, while travel nurses in the state make an average of $146,400, according to the Journal

Cutting travel nurses will bring new financial challenges, as staff nurses are negotiating higher paychecks, according to the report. Washington nurses saw contract nurses and new hires make more when hospitals were desperate during the pandemic, and now existing staff members are fighting for that same treatment. Hospitals in the state are raising nurses' wages at record rates, the Journal reported. At the University of Washington Medicine's two Seattle hospitals, nurses will see a 21 percent pay raise across the next two years. 

"Nurses are calling the shots for the terms and conditions of their employment," Pamela Chandran, labor counsel for the Washington Nurses Association, told the Journal. "There are so few right now, and they're so highly in demand."

As travel nurses are employed less frequently, fewer nurses will be caring for patients, which could affect care quality, Ms. Stokoe told the Journal.

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