ORANGEBURG, SC – (WIS) As COVID-19 continues to strain hospitals, some across the state are experiencing nursing shortages. The Regional Medical Center (CMR) in Orangeburg is taking a unique approach to ramping up nurse recruitment efforts.
Compassionate care close to home. As the only acute care provider serving Orangeburg, Calhoun, Bamberg and Barnwell counties, the Regional Medical Center offers a wide range of medical services with a focus on meeting the specific health needs of the community.
RMC is launching a compensation package that would pay eligible critical care nurses up to $ 70 per hour for 13 weeks.
David Southerland, president and CEO of RMC, said that since the program began three weeks ago, the hospital has already filled nine of its 30 critical care nursing positions.
He believes worries associated with the pandemic could be contributing to the shortage.
“You are currently experiencing a lot of stress in the healthcare environment with COVID-19,” Southerland said. “A lot of people worry about being exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they are wearing appropriate protective gear. We provide all of that to them as part of our supplies. But I just think a lot of anxiety.
He said competitive rates in markets like Columbia and Charleston could also be among the factors associated with their shortage of RNs.
For RMC, one of the driving forces behind the program is to ease the burden on its current nurses.
“About three weeks ago, as a result of discussions with our management team, we were trying to figure out how we staff our emergency department, mainly as a result of a discussion with our emergency department,” said Southerland. “And we had some difficulty just trying to get people to agree to cover overtime shifts as part of regular pay and overtime and it didn’t work.”
The hospital was looking to fill vacancies through contracts with travel nursing agencies, but Southerland said it couldn’t supply enough nurses to meet the needs.
This $ 70 hourly rate is more than 60 percent higher than the hospital’s typical top salary for nurses. According to hospital officials, the typical RMC rate for RNs is between $ 35 and $ 42 per hour, depending on experience level.
By not paying even higher salaries for a number of travel nurses, Southerland said the hospital is saving money through the venture.
“We are also trying to figure out how we can cut our expenses by removing the man in the middle,” he said. So by not having that many travel agency contracts, we save quite a bit of money by doing it that way.
The program is expected to last until the end of this year. Southerland said its viability would be assessed in January and those temporary contracts could potentially be extended.
“If there are still vacancies in the market and we are still looking for people, we may be doing several more weeks on top of that,” Southerland said. “But as long as there are openings, we’ll continue with this.”
Southerland said if all positions are filled and there is less spread of covid in the community, the hospital may consider an overall salary adjustment for its nurses.
RMC officials said they were working on additional ways to recruit and retain nurses beyond normal recruiting channels through the talent acquisition department.
“We also contract with outside companies to recruit en masse what we call mass recruiting, through nurses where we commit to a type of longer term contract to recruit 30 nurses at a rate of. fixed recruitment, ”Southerland said.
He added that RMC recently hired a few nurses as part of this mass recruitment process.
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