Novant responds to employees' concerns over travel nursing policies

Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health is clarifying its efforts to reduce dependence on travel nurses after employees expressed concerns about staffing and patient care.

Employees at Novant's New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., emailed NBC affiliate WECT with concerns based on the belief Novant was ending all labor contracts by June 1, the health system said May 25. 

One employee told the news station: "This means that all of the permanent staff members will be stretched very thin and this creates a truly dangerous scenario of those in our community that need healthcare. This is truly unacceptable, and it's likely that this will drive away the permanent staff. More importantly, the level of care that our citizens will receive will be subpar."

Employees also expressed concerns that the efforts would lead to a critical safety issue, and they cited difficulty in taking breaks because of workforce shortages, the news station reported May 24. 

But a Novant spokesperson told Becker's the concerns are based on a wrong assumption because the health system does not have a systemwide policy to discontinue the use of contract labor by June 1. Still, the health system confirmed it has been and continues to evaluate contracts on a situational basis, with the goal of reducing reliance on travel nurses.

A statement from Novant said the health system used contract labor to supplement staff during COVID-19 surges and is evaluating each contract as it expires amid reduced inpatient admissions related to the virus.

"While we are and have been working toward reducing our dependence on travel nurses, we use contract labor to supplement our teams and ensure our continued ability to provide safe, quality care to our patients," the statement said. "It's important for our communities to know that we have the continued ability to care for them, and that they should seek care when they need it."

Additionally, Novant pointed to its initiatives for recruitment and retention, such as an accredited nurse residency program, competitive incentives and the creation of a new care associate position to support nurses and certified nursing assistants. 

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