LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The shortage of nurses in Las Vegas and around the country continues to rise. And with the lack of staff, hospitals are calling on travel nurses to help.

UMC’s chief nursing officer told us the hospital continues to contract travel nurses in hopes that they decide to stay in the end.

Patrick Kelly of the Nevada Hospital Association talked about the problem during the state COVID update this week.

“This whole phenomenon of traveling nurses has really had an impact on a lot of communities because the rates that are being paid are skyrocketing and we have situations where nurses are making more money than doctors,” Kelly said.

He discussed how travel nursing has become an attractive option. Many staff nurses have decided to pick up and leave to help other hospitals in need.

At UMC, it’s vital they have a good amount of traveling nurses on hand, according to Debra Fox, the chief nursing officer.

“We actually got ahead of the COVID curve, and I started recruiting for travel nurses after the early first surge. We maintain at any point in time around 88 to 120 travel nurses,” Fox said.

“On average, our travel nurses are staying one to two years with us and I only do 13-week assignments. So we very early on then talk to them about renewing,” Fox said.

Mayra Corona recently made the move to being an ICU travel nurse after being a staff nurse in the valley for years.

“It’s ultimately a jump that I had to take, and my skill sets have grown tremendously,” Corona said. “And it has helped me so much as a registered nurse in general, so it’s amazing.”

And with the income she is making now, there’s no way Corona is looking back.

“The pay difference is huge,” Corona said. “I can say in 13 weeks, I’m making more than I would have made in a whole year as a staff nurse.”

Another reason why many switch to travel nursing is due to flexible schedules.

Travel nurses are typically contracted to work about 13 weeks with the option of staying, going to their next job, or taking a break in between.