Banner Health to add nearly 1,000 nurses, others in Arizona amid virus

The largest health system in Arizona has announced it will add about 1,000 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to its workforce to help with the coronavirus pandemic.

Banner Health will add 980 new workers, about twice the amount added during a busy flu season, because more care is needed for patients with COVID-19, said Naomi Cramer, chief human resources officer.

The nurses and respiratory therapists are traveling health care workers who will take assignments across the country for four weeks, with extensions available for up to 12 weeks, Cramer said. Normally travel assignments are around 13 weeks.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

Chief Nursing Officer Phyllis Doulaveris said the nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU ranges from one-to-one to one-to-two, but COVID-19 patients are almost always at a one-to-one ratio.

The traveling nurses have a two-day orientation before they start doing shift work, which includes clinical simulation and nurse shadowing, Doulaveris said.

“They are stepping in where they are needed. By and large, the vast majority are caring for COVID patients,” she said. “They are seasoned and experienced with COVID, so we are using most of them in the COVID units.”

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

Banner Health has also given about 700 employees more job responsibility and has asked the Arizona Department of Health Services to send additional nurses, officials said.

The Arizona Department of Health announced Wednesday that it has hired about 600 nurses to work in state hospitals cost-free for up to six weeks, but hospitals must apply to that program.

600 out-of-state nurses coming to Arizona to support hospitals

The Arizona Department of Health Services says it is partnering with Vizient, Inc. to bring nearly 600 out-of-state nurses to Arizona to support expanded capacity in hospitals amid COVID-19.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily.