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Travel nurses answer the call by working at COVID "hotspot" hospitals

Healthcare workers sacrifice their own safety to treat COVID-19 patients, but some travel nurses go the extra mile; literally.

SAN DIEGO — The Coronavirus pandemic has upped the extreme need for travel nurses. Aya Healthcare based in San Diego is closing in on dispatching 16,000 travel nurses and clinicians in another couple of weeks.

Aya Healthcare VP of account management Sophia Morris says the need for nurses in hard-hit COVID areas has been at an all-time high.

“We got some very large orders in the beginning of the pandemic in the North East particularly in New York and New Jersey, which were hit the hardest, in that first wave,” said Sophia Morris, Aya Healthcare VP of account management.

Managers like Morris have been working in overdrive to fill positions across the country.

"Every week, I wonder when more job orders come in, where are these clinicians going to continue to come from, but somehow they continue to keep coming,” Morris said.

ER Nurse Clare Dooley answered the call to serve. After the pandemic broke out, Dooley decided to become a Travel nurse and was sent to ground zero in New York.

RELATED: UC San Diego nurse describes heartbreaking experience in New York City's hot zone

"It was a little scary, it was definitely scary, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when we really didn't know as much about the disease as we know now. The staff at the hospital that I went to in New York, they were really traumatized, they had been seeing so many cases,” said Dooley, who is a New York native.

After eight months in, Dooley is still at it, traveling from hospital to hospital, even to a rural, northwest Alaskan village.

“I had a little break from COVID and now it's worse than it was in New York in April. Now, I'm back in California with the surge,” Dooley said.

With contracts lasting from four to 26 weeks, Dooley says loves the flexibility and the increased pay doesn't hurt either.

"We're seeing pay packages anywhere from $4,000 a week to $8,000 a week,” Morris said.

In California, Aya has about 6,000 nursing jobs, which is four times the need one a year ago.

"Our nurses are tired, our clinicians are tired, and our staff is tired, but I think that there is a calling for them and this is why a lot of nurses become nurses,” Morris said.

And the calling is why Dooley says she won't stop travel nursing.

"There is a lot of fulfillment in going to places where you are really needed. The more you travel the more you learn,” Dooley said.

Morris says Aya Healthcare has seen a lot of retired nurses come out of retirement to start travel nursing again to help meet the high demand.

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