Traveling nurses poised to fill in if Minnesota nurses strike

While the pay can vary by region, recruiting agencies say traveling nurses can make $80 an hour or more.

ST PAUL, Min. — The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) says there are no formal talks scheduled with hospital leaders this weekend as negotiations continue in an effort to avert a strike.

The 15,000-member union voted this week to authorize a strike, but its leaders are still in discussions about when and if to call one at all. If they do, the union says it would be one of the largest in US history.

In that case, so-called rapid response agencies that retain strike nurses will be available to travel at a moment’s notice and are paid well for their time.

The MNA says it’s negotiating for better pay and working conditions.

“Our patients are sicker and more complex and our nurses are taking care of more of them at one time than they used to,” said Jill Eliasson, who’s a longtime nurse and head of Travel Nurse Across America that finds travel nurses jobs.

“They get to move to different parts of the country and they stay for that short contract and then they go somewhere else,” said Eliasson. “Whatever their reason is to travel to a specific area, that recruiter will help them find the right position that suits them.”

Traditional travel nurse contracts can vary from four weeks to typically 13 weeks. And then there are agencies that are solely responsible for rapid response that relieve nurses who are specifically on strike.

“They are recruited in the same manner as a traditional travel nurse, but it’s much, much quicker,” said Eliasson. “Generally, they know when a strike is brewing and they get ample notice, but three weeks is fast.”

Strike nurses are compensated well for their job, sometimes $80 an hour or more during a strike that typically last a few days.

Hospitals will also close certain units or stop elective procedures to avoid hiring more nurses. Eliasson says those nurses, though, all just as capable at maintaining patient care.

“A majority of those nurses will be replaced with very qualified nurses who are used to going into a foreign setting, a foreign environment, to still provide top patient care,” said Eliasson. “It’s uncomfortable to walk across the picket line when you’ve got nurses who are fighting for better pay, fighting for better benefits, and yet, at the same time, those nurses understand that someone has to take their place to provide top patient care .”

Travel Nurse Across America is considered a large recruiting agency that typically has more than 1,000 nurses working across the country at one time.

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlists: