Derby’s Rock Regional Hospital has not been immune to the effects of the pandemic on employment, with the local hospital currently facing staffing challenges due to a nationwide nursing shortage.
While Rock Regional CEO Barry Beus said the nursing shortage was causing issues prior to the pandemic, the current situation has put it under a microscope.
“Across the country, there have been many late-career nurses leave the industry due to the pandemic,” Beus said. “Others chose to pursue careers in outpatient, non-acute care settings, making it difficult for hospitals.”
Currently, Rock Regional Hospital has 12 open registered nursing positions – accounting for more than one-third of all of the openings the hospital is looking to fill.
Namely, the Derby hospital’s intensive care and medical/surgical departments are feeling the impact of the nursing shortage the most. That has led the hospital to look elsewhere for help.
“This shortage has resulted in Rock Regional Hospital utilizing staffing agencies to supplement the needs of our departments,” Beus said. “As a result of the demand for nurses, staffing agencies have dramatically increased their rates and have additional premiums for caring for COVID patients. We continue strong recruiting efforts to bring additional staff in-house in hopes that we can minimize or eliminate the need for staffing agencies.”
Beus noted the additional premiums come at a direct cost to the hospital, not to patients, adding to efforts to fill open positions.
Recently, a Kansas task force made $50 million in COVID-19 relief funds available to state hospitals for extra nursing pay to help retain staff. The retention incentives – which would also require reports on turnover rates – are capped at $13 an hour and $25,000 a year to comply with federal requirements and the program will last six months.
Having an emergency department, Rock Regional is eligible for the funding to help address staffing challenges and Beus said plans are in place to take advantage of that.
“These funds will be allocated on a per licensed bed basis, but the amount and timeline have yet to be determined,” Beus said. “Once Rock Regional Hospital receives this funding, we will use it to implement retention and recruitment strategies.”
Signing bonuses are being offered, too, to help fill positions where the hospital has struggled finding help. While the issue remains, Beus noted the hospital has seen some progress recently and he hopes that will continue.
“We have been recruiting for various positions as volumes have increased over the last 12 months,” Beus said. “We have been fortunate the last couple of months to recruit candidates, but we still have many openings. Our goal is to minimize the use of staffing agencies but will continue to use them as needs arise.”