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Nursing shortage is hampering ‘our ability to deliver care,' Ingenovis Health CEO explains

Ingenovis Health CEO Bart Valdez joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the nursing shortage and what can be done to create better conditions for both nurses and patients.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to stick with health care right now and talk about this devastating nursing shortage that we're experiencing here in the US, as our frontline workers suffer from anxiety and burnout, much of that related to the pandemic. Joining us to talk about it is Bart Valdez. He is CEO of Ingenovis Health. And, Bart, it's good to see you here. This is a real problem.

You know, my sister is an emergency room nurse, so I have heard the stories from her. I see how exhausted and tired she is because of all the extra work. Paint the picture for us and tell us just how bad it is right now among our nurses in this country.

BART VALDEZ: Yeah, what you had prior to COVID was you already had a shortage of nurses-- of qualified, experienced nurses-- to go out in the field. I mean, there's been sort of a chronic shortage prior to COVID. What COVID did is really just amplified that number up significantly. So now we're facing a huge shortage of nurses.

The demand continues to grow at a significant rate, not just because of the macro events of the population getting older and more people having more chronic illnesses-- those are some components of it. But then with COVID, what we have on the supply side is a lot of nurses have chosen to maybe retire early, maybe take a break from nursing altogether. So it's been a real challenge of not only trying to satisfy the increasing demand, but also really looking at the total number of nurses that are out there. The numbers continue to get more-- a difference-- a gap between each of the two.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I'm wondering if, does it lie among geographic lines? I mean, are some states doing just fine? Or is this a phenomenon we're seeing across the country?

BART VALDEZ: You know, we're really seeing this across the country. And that's where our organization, Ingenovis Health, really has tried to answer the call with travel nurses. These nurses are highly experienced nurses that are going out to the most critical care areas where they're having a census imbalance or they're having some sort of crisis. That's where we're sending our nurses out. And right now, we have almost 6,000 nurses out in the field going to various locations throughout the country to try and provide that patient care where it's needed.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So are you talking about, I guess, traveling nurses, right, or visiting nurses? Have you seen an uptick in that kind of nursing versus those nurses who are, you know, stationed at one particular hospital?

BART VALDEZ: Yeah. So with travel nursing, that's what Ingenovis Health provides-- actually traveling clinicians, because oftentimes, it also includes allied workers. So that could be a respiratory therapist, for example. So they're going out to these locations. And that expansion in travel, we're probably double in size from where we were just a year ago in terms of the number of travelers that we have out in the field working at all these acute care hospitals.

So Ingenovis Health is providing nurses through our three core brands. Each of our brands have been around for around 25 years. And that's true staff-- excuse me, that's true staff, fast staff, as well as our US nursing brand. And we also have another brand called Cardio Solutions, which provides longer term services with doctors as well as nurses.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to talk about how we can incentivize people to come back to this noble profession of nursing. And I know that in New York State, just this week, the governor announced some nursing scholarships to help pay tuition for 1,000 nurses that can be spread across the country. Are you seeing that in other parts of the US right now where there are these state and maybe even a federal, is what we need, program to incentivize people to get into nursing?

BART VALDEZ: Yeah, we're seeing a lot of different programs. Our organization offers programs to help nurses with any licensing that they may need by state. We certainly provide expanded EAP services as well as any services that we can provide to really sort of de-stress them when they're out in the field. Because, obviously, our focus is to make sure we're getting nurses out and providing quality patient care.

We want to make sure that their travel, the logistics associated with it, whether it be a hotel or it be a flight-- all of those are already taken care of, as well as all the credentialing that's required is taken care of. We want to make sure that this is a positive experience for the traveler, because we want them coming back. We want them to be going out to these critical locations that need the help.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And what about when it comes to salaries? I mean, what have you seen-- I mean, you've been in the business now, it sounds like, for a couple of decades-- or at least your brands have been around that long. How have salaries trended for nurses in this country?

BART VALDEZ: Yeah, we've seen, particularly in the travel nurse area, we've seen an increase of salaries certainly due to the pandemic. But we're even starting to see that prior to the pandemic as we are starting to experience more nurse shortages. So there's always been this sort of constant challenge as far as getting the supply you need.

So therefore, you need to be able to provide the right pay, the structure to incentivize the nurses to come out to participate in a travel nursing career. And oftentimes, that is really encouraged by the fact that these nurses are experienced, they're going into a hot spot, a place where there's immediate demand. And they have to be able to hit the floor running in terms of having the experience, and capabilities, and skill set to provide patient care immediately.

This is a very challenging position. You're taking someone away from their home for anywhere from a few days to up to 13 weeks, and sometimes in some cases even longer. So you need to be able to provide them the proper financial incentives to do so.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Bart, if this shortage of nurses remains pretty consistent, what's going to be the long-term impact of our health care system?

BART VALDEZ: It's going to continue to challenge our health care system and our ability to deliver care, particularly at the acute care hospital settings. I think that there's a lot of people within our industry, the travel nursing industry, as well as within overall staff nurses, that are trying to solve for this, because this is really going to take all of us to understand, how can we provide the best, most qualified nurses to provide that patient care?

And it's really going to be a combination of the workforce management strategies that hospitals are already employing, as well as how contingent labor, as well as their float pools and per diem labor can all contribute to help to make sure that there's proper coverage. We really anticipate that there's going to be significant focus in our area as far as, how do we better staff the hospitals so they can handle these incredible spikes that they're seeing every single quarter due to COVID, or due to other challenges that are going on in that particular regional area.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Bart Valdez, CEO of Ingenovis Health, thanks for being with us today.