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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – OU Health has announced new incentives to address the nursing shortage.

OU Health says they have a 19 percent vacancy rate for nurses and 47 percent turnover rate.

To launch the initiatives, OU Health is providing retention bonuses to its current nurses.

They’re also launching the “Travel at Home” program, which gives current nurses the option to be paid like traveling nurses in lieu of receiving a benefits package, unless required by law.

There’s also the “Weekend Program,” which gives nurses 72 hours of pay for 48 hours on the job if they do four 12-hour weekend shifts in each two week pay period.

For nurses who want to continue their education, they can get tuition reimbursement of $5,250 per year for any accredited nursing program, or they can apply for scholarships in three different degree programs: RN-to-BSN; Master’s in Nursing Administration (MSN); and post-masters Doctorate in Nursing Practice focused on Nursing Administration (DNP).

“It’s an investment in nursing,” Julie Hoff, Dean of the OU College of Nursing said. “If we can achieve the numbers we hope to achieve in the long run, it saves us money versus using more expensive travel nurses.”

OU Health isn’t the only hospital with the issue. Hospitals across the nation are also dealing with shortages.

The shortage is caused by several factors: an aging population, nurses retiring, and burnout– exacerbated by the pandemic.

Trauma ER nurse James Brigida describes what it’s like when there’s not enough staff.

“In the ER, it is crippling, if the floors are not staffed appropriately upstairs, then we can’t get our patients admitted to a room, and without that happening, we can’t function like at ER should. Ultimately the nursing shortage has left us all tired and weary,” he said. “Throughout all ERs, there is a struggle to get and keep nurses, asking them to often work understaffed, underpaid, in an environment with the highest level of acuity and stress.”

At Stillwater Medical Center, it’s the same issue.

“It’s to be understandable. We just went through a lot as a community of nurses, and a lot of people are struggling,” ICU nurse Abby Snow said. “The nursing shortage does make it hard on the ones that are left, but we’re doing the best we can.”

Mercy says they have 116 open nursing position across at all locations in Oklahoma City. There are 198 open nursing positions at Mercy facilities across Oklahoma.

Officials with SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital released the following statement:

“Oklahoma’s nursing shortage is of great concern for our state. It has been ongoing for several years and has only been heightened by the pandemic. SSM Health St. Anthony is able to offer several nursing opportunities at this time as we strive to provide exceptional care for COVID and non-COVID patients at every turn. We are dedicated to nurturing a health care environment that provides a fulfilling nursing career for our staff.”