WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some hospitals rarely used traveling nurses. However, now those nurses are helping to fill a void in many hospitals.

With several area hospitals enduring capacity problems over the last few months, many have also had to deal with ongoing nursing shortages. To help fix the problem, traveling nurses are being used to plug the holes left in the medical field.

For many hospitals, they look to hire locally before looking at other options.

“We typically use traveling nurses as a last resort,” Stacy Burris, director of foundation & community outreach for Greene County General Hospital, said. “We of course want to hire employees. We want to hire local employees and people who need jobs in our area first.”

For Greene County General Hospital, many staff members who may not touch the floor on an average day have rolled back their sleeves to help patients on special occasions.

“As our high step directors, they will work the floor and they will care for patients because we’re just doing whatever we can do to ensure that we have people here to care for people that are sick,” Burris said. “That’s where it’s good to have traveling nurses because they can plug some of those holes we have more consistently.”

There was a nursing shortage before COVID-19 Dr. Rachel Spalding, chief nursing officer at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., said, and the pandemic only made things worse.

“It’s going to take use years to recover from this, if we recover from this the way we want to but it’s going to change the way healthcare is delivered,” Dr. Spalding said. “Other states have enacted their crisis standard of care because they know they can’t provide the same standard of care given our current situation.”

Traveling nurses on average make more than regular staffing nurses. That has made it hard for hospitals to keep a balance between both groups of nurses.

“It’s been a battle even to the point of nursing leaders and nurse organizations across the nation are asking for legislation so they don’t feel like they’re being priced gouged,” Dr. Spalding said.

Dr. Spalding said the American Nurses Association has classified the nursing shortage as a national crisis.