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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The pandemic has put a huge strain on hospitals, so one network is offering a big incentive for nurses to apply.

Integris is offering a up to a $25,000 signing bonus for registered nurses, depending on experience. This runs through December 31, 2020. 

According to the State Medical Association, there was already a nursing shortage in Oklahoma before the pandemic. COVID-19 has made it worse.

“When you go into this having a shortage, and then you have nurses that are isolated or quarantined because there’s so much community spread of the virus, it takes a toll on our ability to deliver healthcare,” Dr. George Monks with the Oklahoma State Medical Association said.

“It’s exacerbated by this pandemic,” Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said. “Our healthcare workers are very stressed. They’re going to work everyday in full PPE now for months. This is a very high stress situation, and we’re certainly knowing and understanding that our hospitals are trying to provide support there for resiliency, but it is a very hard time for healthcare workers right now.”

According to Integris’ job site, there are more than 350 open nursing positions in its hospitals across Oklahoma.

Dr. Monks says the virus has taken a big toll on healthcare workers.

Across the state, more than 7,000 healthcare providers have gotten sick. 631 are currently infected with COVID-19. Sixteen workers have died from the virus.

Even if hospitals have beds available, they still have to be staffed.

“Usually in the ICU, there’s a nurse to every bed or every two beds and if you just lose one nurse, because she has COVID or due to quarantine or isolation, you’re loosing one or two staffed ICU beds,” Monks said. “That’s a big hit, especially right now when we need every single bed.”

He also says some nurses have gone to states like Texas for better pay, and he thinks sign on bonuses in Oklahoma can help keep workers in the state.

“I’m encouraged that some of our hospitals are doing the same and that’s the best way to try to attract nurses to our state,” Monks said.

The Oklahoma Nurses Association say they’re meeting with the State Health Commissioner this week to discuss the nursing shortage.