‘Internal nurse traveler’ program helping UW Health fill shifts, retain nurses

UW Health has created an “internal nurse traveler” program aimed at filling open shifts and retaining existing employees. 

Through the program, launched earlier this year, nurses working at UW Health can pick up an extra shift per week for six weeks and get paid an additional $100 per hour above the base pay rate for that shift. 

UW Health Chief Nurse Executive Rudy Jackson says this program is preferable to hiring external traveler nurses, which many employers have relied upon during the pandemic. Traveler nurses are typically paid much more than a standard nurse employee to fill short-term positions. 

“Using an external agency isn’t ideal,” Jackson said in a release. “It is costly to bring in travelers and it means bringing in nurses who might not be familiar with our systems, our teams and our patients’ unique needs.” 

He said over 90 percent of open nursing shifts were filled “within days” of the program being announced. 

UW Health employs about 3,300 nurses across its hospitals and clinics. UW Health Press Secretary Emily Kumlien said each six-week round of the internal traveler program has had between 500 and 600 nurses sign up for the extra shift. The health system continues to have between 70 and 80 external nurse travelers working in emergency and inpatient areas. 

“Currently, external traveling nurses and our internal traveler nurses receive nearly identical take-home rates,” Kumlien said in an emailed statement. “However, external traveling nurse agencies charge health systems a higher rate, keeping approximately 30% for the agency. UW Health is [saving] that 30% when working directly with UW Health nurses.” 

Michele McClure, chief nursing officer at UW Health, University Hospital, says the program has helped keep nurses from leaving the organization. 

“We saw staff sign up for internal ‘traveler’ shifts instead of leaving to become travelers,” she said in the release. “As we work to hire more nurses for our long-term needs, this program supports our talented nurses and the patients who need them now.”

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/uw-health-creates-innovative-program-to-address-nursing-shortage/ 

See a recent story on Wisconsin’s projected nursing workforce shortage: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/registered-nurse-workforce-could-be-short-nearly-23000-nurses-by-2040-report-projects/

–By Alex Moe