Statement From the Teaching Hospitals of Texas on Federal Action to Investigate Nurse Staffing Agencies

“As the largest employers of registered nurses in the state, THOT members are disproportionately affected by the prolonged nurse staffing shortage and actions that may have been taken by some nurse staffing agencies during the pandemic to increase their own profits at the expense not only of hospitals but, more importantly, of taxpayers and our patients.

As one measure to redress the nurse staffing crisis, THOT supports the request made by more than 200 bipartisan members of Congress to the White House COVID-19 Response Team coordinator Jeffrey Zients to investigate the staffing agencies’ conduct to determine if it is the product of anticompetitive activity or violates consumer protection laws.

THOT’s members comprise 12.5 percent of the state’s hospital beds and employ more than 15 percent of the state’s hospital-based registered nurses. Teaching hospitals also care for patients with some of the most high-acuity and serious conditions that require specialized expertise to treat.

Staffing challenges also extend to respiratory therapists, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and even physicians. Being able to fully staff all levels of clinical positions is critical to our ability to deliver the highest quality care to all who need it with professionalism and compassion.

Prior to the pandemic, travel nurse wages were between $40 and $75 an hour, depending on the specialty. Today, they average $90 to $150 and, in some cases, are upwards of $200 an hour. On top of these increased wages are the staffing agencies’ increased placement fees. In one month, one of THOT’s members saw increased staffing costs of more than $10 million due to the need to hire temporary nurses and retain existing staff.  In addition to inflated temporary staffing costs, we are confronting high levels of staff turnover, with clinical staff leaving for temporary positions faster than we can hire, onboard, and integrate them. These losses challenge our ability to keep staff aligned with our mission of high quality, compassionate care for all. As hospitals cycle through and train temporary staff, hospitals, their patients, and taxpayers lose more than money.

The hospital nurse is indispensable. Patients are hospitalized only when they need 24-hour care, and without nurses, hospitals cannot provide that care. As teaching hospitals, THOT’s members long have been partners in supporting a strong nurse workforce, and we look forward to working with our state and federal partners on solutions to the current staffing crisis and long-term strategies to address the chronic shortage of nurses and other clinical professionals.”