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Live 5 Investigates: COVID vaccine jobs may be pulling nurses away from other health care jobs

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 2:25 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Some companies are reporting difficulty filling health care positions because COVID-19 vaccination gigs may be wooing those nurses with better pay.

“Right now, it’s just a matter of they’re able to make some more money, so they’re jumping on it,” Continuum Pediatric Nursing Director of Operations Rebecca Gragson said.

Continuum Pediatric Nursing provides nursing care for medically complex patients. Vicki Craft, RN, the Regional Director of Business Development, said many of their nurses have taken a leave of absence in order to take a vaccination job.

During a search for COVID-19 vaccination jobs, Live 5 News found five local companies that were hiring for registered nurses. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control listed the pay for their position at $40 per hour. At Continuum Pediatric Nursing, registered nurses may get paid about $23 per hour.

Fewer nurses result in less help for local families, like Alison and Robert Harding of Daniel Island. Their seven-year-old son, Cameron, has spinal muscular atrophy and requires daily medical care.

“I like to tell people, it’s sort of like when you have a newborn, and they are just up throughout the night,” Robert said.

The family used to have two full-time nurses, and one part-time nurse to help. That figure has since dropped to one full-time nurse.

“It’s hard. We can’t leave to go to dinner; There’s no respite,” Alison said. “Once we get off work from our full-time job, and the nurse leaves, we start our second full-time job.”

Compounding the issue: South Carolina’s Medicaid reimbursement rate for private-duty nursing. The rate effectively limits the pay for such nurses.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services did increase the rate by 15 percent in 2020, but Continuum wants the rate increased another four to five dollars.

“So people are truly in it because their heart is in it,” Craft said. “They love what they do taking care of the kiddos and keeping them at home.”

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