Los Angeles Times Examines Increased Use of Traveling Nurses in California, Nationwide
The Los Angeles Times yesterday examined the increasing number of traveling nurses both in the state and nationwide. With about 126,000 nursing positions currently vacant nationwide and that figure expected to double in the next decade, traveling nurses have become a growth industry. California will need an additional 109,000 nurses by 2010, in part because of state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios set to take effect in 2004, according to Jan Emerson, vice president of external affairs for the California Healthcare Association. The Times reports that the "choice is ... simple: Hospitals can either hire traveling nurses (or even more costly per diem nurses) or turn patients away." Steve Francis, CEO of the traveling nurse staffing firm AMN Healthcare Services, said, "[I]t's good to have a nurse rather than a bed not staffed, because there's no revenue coming out of a bed not staffed." Denise Navellier, patient care manager at Alta Bates Medical Center, said, "We know if we don't have [traveling nurses] then we don't have anyone." But the California Nurses Association, which represents some 45,000 registered nurses in the state, says that "quality can be eroded if a hospital staff is not stable," the Times reports. CNA spokesperson Charles Idelson said that when nurses know the "staff, policies and procedures" of a hospital, "the atmosphere is more conducive to reducing medical errors and enhancing the general environment for patient care," adding that using regular staff as opposed to traveling nurses "is more cost-effective and more care-effective" (Pogash, Los Angeles Times, 10/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.