TX Bans Local Nurses from Quitting to Work FEMA Crisis Contracts in State

Hacker News - Wed Oct 13 23:35

"In order to mitigate negative staffing impacts on Texas healthcare systems and EMS agencies, the state of Texas will only allow personnel deploying for this emergency response to be NON-RESIDENTS of Texas only and to have not been employed by a Texas Acute Care hospital or EMS agency within 30 days.

This is mandated from the state of Texas. All healthcare workers with applicable licensure are eligible for ANY Krucial Staffing contract opportunities that are direct agreements and not directed by entities outside of the healthcare facility," Krucial Staffing posted on Instagram.

A quick search on several travel nurse job boards will find many job postings stating that Texas is not currently accepting nurses who are residents and who work in Texas to work for FEMA or government-funded disaster contracts. Here is one such job posting. 

We reached out to Krucial Staffing for information on the mandate and instructions on how out-of-state nurses can apply. Here is their response,

We are following the mandate from the state of Texas that those healthcare personnel Krucial Staffing recruits for deployment in Texas must be non-residents of Texas and cannot have been employed by a Texas Acute Care hospital or EMS agency within 30 days.

All healthcare workers that meet this standard and have applicable licensure are eligible for any Krucial Staffing contract opportunities that are direct agreements and not directed by entities outside of the healthcare facility.

Our mission is to help the hospitals and ultimately the individuals who are suffering in their greatest time of need. If you are interested in applying with Krucial Staffing, please go to this link. 

Details

Governor Abbott passed a mandate that prohibits Texas residents who are currently employed from working for FEMA or state-funded disaster response agencies. The problem apparently lies in this sentence from his August 9, 2021 press release announcing the actions he planned to take in response to rising COVID-19 cases: “The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will be utilizing staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations.”

Apparently, that little stipulation that the medical personnel is from out-of-state has resulted in current employed Texas nurses or current travelers based in Texas being unable to work government-funded disaster response contracts if they have been employed at a hospital within the state in the past 30 days.

Texas in Dire Need of Thousand of Nurses

Texas is looking to fill 6,500 healthcare positions from out-of-state or unemployed Texas nurses to help with the COVID-19 response. Texas is dealing with a record number of ICU hospitalizations from COVID-19 and thanks to a severe shortage of nurses, the state has extended its state of emergency. 

Last Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott requested help from the Texas Department of State in dealing with the surge in cases. Part of that help included funding to hire travel nurses as outlined in the document titled, "Governor Abbott's Proactive Response To The Coronavirus Threat."

However, the funding stipulates that it only can be used to hire nurses who aren’t currently working (staff or travel contracts) in Texas -- and the move is both enticing travel nurses outside of the state with high-paying disaster response crisis contracts and angering Texas nurses who are now prohibited from quitting their staff or travel nursing assignments to work these disaster response crisis contracts in hard-hit areas of their own state.

Help nurses - Sign the PLEDGE to change nursing now.

What’s Happening in Texas? 

Basically, things are bad in Texas. So bad that Sophia Morris, vice president of account management for the travel nursing agency Aya Healthcare, called it “the worst that we’ve seen in Texas.”

The problem is that the Delta variant has swept the state, leading to 11,522 current hospitalizations, the highest it’s ever been during the pandemic, at the same time that there is a nursing shortage from so many nurses being burned out or falling ill. 

Serena Bumpus, Director of Practice in Nursing for the Texas Nurses Association told CBS Austin that the state was already 30,000 nurses short in Texas in 2018 and it was predicted by 2032, Texas would be short 60,000 nurses. However, the pandemic sped up that timeline. “The prediction is that we have well surpassed those numbers due to the pandemic,” she told the news outlet. 

The Texas Hospital Association (THA) explained in a statement that it’s the combination of a lack of nurses and the current surge that has overwhelmed the medical system and led to the dire need to call in contract workers.  

“This surge is nothing like anything we’ve ever seen,” the THA said. “Hospitals are doing everything in their power to figure this out. Staffing is a critical issue and this spike is unsustainable without help. Many hospitals have already idled non-essential services and are offering bonuses and incentive pay just to keep staff.”

To help with the situation, the Governor did outline specific steps he planned to take to deal with the influx of patients, including asking the THA to request that hospitals stop non-emergency medical procedures, opening antibody infusion centers, and expanding vaccine administration. Along with proactive steps, Abbott also requested that additional travel nurses and healthcare staff from out-of-state be brought in to help with the overwhelming needs inside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

And unfortunately, as we heard warnings from the start of the pandemic, it’s not just COVID-19 cases that are the problem–it’s the fact that the beds are filling up so fast that people without COVID have nowhere to go for their medical needs. 

“This thing has really overwhelmed our resources,” explained Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Regional Chair of Surgery Dr. M. Haris Nazim to a local news station. “The ERs are full, I can tell you there are patients that are getting transported hundreds or thousands of miles away just to seek care. It may not be COVID related.”

What's Causing The Nursing Shortage in TX?

According to the THA, Texas is attempting to fill the gaps in nursing care with out-of-state healthcare workers, all coordinated by the state through staffing agencies. The organization explained that the hospital industry has lost a ton of nurses throughout the pandemic as a result of both extreme burnout and illness themselves. 

“Many have left the profession due to the extreme nature of the work during a relentless pandemic,” the THA states on their website. 

However, there’s a minor complication that some nurses are seeing with the whole situation in Texas. Namely, that they feel the state is punishing nurses who do live thereby prohibiting them from working contract positions during this time of crisis.

How Are Nurses Reacting

Some Texas nurses aren’t happy that they have been left out of the opportunity to help in their home state by working disaster-response contracts and earn a wage that, let’s face it, they deserve more than anyone. They feel the ban exists to try to ensure that staff nurses in Texas don’t quit their jobs in order to take higher-paying disaster response crisis contracts and that ultimately, it’s only going to add to the already-dire nursing shortage in Texas in the long run.

“Of course they don’t want TX Nurses because they are mad the Nurses don’t want to be staff anymore,” commented one nurse on Facebook. “And instead of paying them what they deserve, to care for critically ill patients and higher nurse ratios, they try to block TX Nurses. But… there are literally 49 other states! Nurses do not forget. So doing this isn’t going to help the problem. It’ll make it worse.” 

Other nurses in Texas are begging for help in getting the ban reversed. 

“If you know a nurse and appreciate what we do, please support us,” another Texas nurse pleaded on Facebook earlier last week. “Call Abbott and demand he allow crisis response agencies hire Texas travel nurses."

Help nurses - Sign the PLEDGE to change nursing now.