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Arizona hospitals are losing nurses. But some of them return as travel nurses — for better pay

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 11:25am
Updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 11:38am

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sherry stotler
Valleywise Health
Sherry Stotler, chief nursing officer at Valleywise Health, demonstrates chest compressions on a CPR manikin.

Arizona is on the verge of 25,000 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

State health officials reported one of the highest daily fatality totals so far on Jan. 11, adding 213 more deaths to its dashboard. They also added 14,160 more infections. The state has now passed 1.5 million cases.

Embry Health, which has a large testing presence in the Valley, reported a positivity rate of nearly 40% among the people it has tested in recent days.

Those numbers look bad enough, but they don’t tell the whole story. For example, they don’t include at-home rapid COVID-19 tests that come back positive.

And those at-home tests, which have been difficult to find, could become even more popular soon. The Biden administration recently announced its plan that requires health insurers to cover eight such tests per person, per month, will take effect on Jan. 15.

At the same time, hospitals are struggling with staffing issues as their beds fill up. State health officials report they continue to be at or near capacity with 94% of inpatient beds and 95% of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds filled.

Chief nursing officer Sherry Stotler has spearheaded Valleywise Health’s response to COVID-19 from Day One. She oversees a clinical staff of 1,300 at the county hospital system, so staffing is on the top of her duties and her mind.

The Show spoke with her to learn about the latest efforts to find enough nurses to care for a growing number of patients.

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