Oklahoma Ranks 46th In Nurses Per Capita, Growing Competition For Nurses Amid Pandemic

Friday, October 30th 2020, 9:42 pm
By: Chinh Doan

TULSA, Okla. -

Some nurses said they are leaving Oklahoma to work in other states for better pay.

Oklahoma Nurses Association CEO Jane Nelson said Oklahoma ranks 46th in the country with about 700 nurses per 100,000 compared to the national average of 1,100 nurses per 100,000.

Nelson said Oklahoma’s neighboring states are the biggest competition.

"If they were to take those jobs in Texas, yes, they'd be making $150 per hour versus what some hospitals are offering at $118 per hour," said Nelson.

The shortage is critical because of the surge in COVID-19 cases and the upcoming flu season. Cindy Syfert worked in Tulsa until she took on travel nursing contracts in New York in March and now in Texas.

"Tulsa wasn't paying that good at the time," said Syfert. “None of the areas were.”

Jami Bakhtiar also left Tulsa and now works in Arkansas. He said he thinks nurses should be paid based on their performance rather than experience.

"And the ones who don't want to put in the extra work that can result in the better pay and the premium pay, they're content with the money they're making, so be it," said Bakhtiar.

The Oklahoma Nurses Association and other leaders are partnering on a project to keep nurses in Oklahoma, but details are not yet released.

"I think at this point, we all have to work together to figure out how we retain that nursing talent," said Nelson.

INTEGRIS Health Chief Nurse Executive Kerri Bayer said nurses need our support, especially during a “disruptive labor market.”

Bayer said she was among the nursing leadership from across the state who were on a call Friday to plan strategies to help make sure there are enough nurses to care for Oklahomans.

"It's really a very powerful profession to be in right now, and so we want to make sure that we show the value of that," said Bayer.

News On 6 also checked in with Green Country hospitals.

Hillcrest HealthCare System shared this statement:

“Oklahoma is not immune to the national nursing shortage currently felt by hospitals across the country. However, we continually strive to attract the best local, regional and national talent. Hillcrest performs market audits on a frequent basis to stay competitive with local salary and incentive offerings.
As a System, we always endeavor to connect with and hire the best and most qualified nursing and clinical staff. We continually support and encourage nursing education for our colleagues as well as graduate medical education.”

Saint Francis Health System and Ascension St. John did not offer comments.