BRADENTON, Fla. — 76 members of U.S. Congress, seven of which represent Florida, signed a letter addressed to the White House COVID-19 response team coordinator, calling for an investigation into nurse staffing agencies.
In the letter, Congress members state travel nurses are paid "two, three or more times pre-pandemic levels" and they fear agencies are "taking advantage of difficult circumstances to increase their profits at the expense of patients."
“If they want to get involved then let’s go to the bedside and let’s see what’s really going on," a response to the letter from traveling nurse Danielle Swenson.
Swenson lives in Bradenton, Florida with her husband and 10-year-old son. She has not been able to spend much time with them over the past couple years, however.
“Originally, it was at the center of the pandemic that I decided to go to Manhattan for my first-ever travel contract," Swenson said.
After thirteen weeks in Manhattan, Swenson moved to El Paso, Texas and worked inside a COVID-19 ICU before flying back to the Big Apple to work at a hospital in the Bronx.
“You’re there to try to help, but you’re also there to provide for your family and support, so the pay that we’re getting paid helps and it’s one of the reasons why I chose to do it," Swenson said.
But Swenson and other nurses fear that pay is now in jeopardy. Swenson says word of a wage cap is swirling around her ICU floor in Fort Myers, Florida, and she says it is causing more stress on already stressed workers.
In her mind, flying across the country to live in a foreign city and work with sick COVID patients justifies extra pay.
“I have a family, I have a life, I have a home…that’s why I want these funds. I want to take care of the patients, I want the increased pay because I’m sacrificing at the end of the day," Swenson said. “I don’t think that’s something that’s unfair to think or act, and I think in any other profession, I think that’s something that we would expect.”