PHOENIX (3TV / CBS 5) – Travel nurses have played a tremendous role in completing the staff shortage during the pandemic. And now we may not see so many of them here in Arizona.

Joanna Fakhouri has been a nurse for 10 years. She has made two trips as a travel nurse to Northern Arizona and California.

“Everyone is burned out,” said Fakhouri. “I’ve always worked 60 hours.” She describes the pandemic as traumatizing.

“I think I’ve done more codes and performed more CPR in the last two years than I did in all of my 10 years combined,” said Fakhouri.

COVID-19 has essentially pushed her out of her job. She still vividly remembers the day on which she had reached her limit.

“I put someone in a body bag who looked like my already dead brother, that was enough. I still carried on after that, but that was when it was, ok, after this one and on vacation I have to stop. I can’t do this again, “she said.

Fakhouri is not alone. Other travel nurses are calling too. Jessica Rigler, of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said it was difficult to keep travel nurses, especially during vacations.

“We find it very difficult at this time around Christmas and New Year’s Eve to reach an agreement on extensions or new starts,” said Rigler. “That will see more nurses leaving the state in the next week or two.”

More nurses are leaving the hospital as the hospitals are already facing an unprecedented situation. According to the Department of Health, only 6% of ICU beds across the state are available.

“We expect a decline in the number of available nurses, which, depending on the number of patients, could lead to additional capacity challenges in hospitals,” said Rigler.

Rigler said contracts are typically eight weeks in length. Some travel nurses choose to quit and others are just moving on to the next task.

“We don’t always know where to go next,” said Rigler.

As for Fakhouri, she hopes to come back to it when the time is right.

“We can’t pour out of an empty glass. I’ve been preaching that for the past two years. I haven’t followed my own advice, so I’ve struggled,” said Fakhouri.

Rigler said she anticipates the number of traveling nurses will increase in mid-January when the holiday season is over. Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association vice president Holly Ward said hospitals across the state are seeing an increase in patients coming for critical care while reducing staffing resources like traveling nurses.

“Hospitals have seen fees of up to $ 265 an hour for travel nurses. This amount usually varies by region and specialty. And it’s not clear how much the agency takes from that hourly fee and how much the nurse is paid We can take advantage of everyone’s help to take care of themselves, get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu to prevent serious illness, and choose the right care when they need it – pull telemedicine visits or urgent assistance considered if you are not in an emergency. “

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