How health tech is targeting Tampa Bay’s nurse shortage.


Sana Abbas was wondering how she could afford to stay in the profession she loved. When the pandemic began, she was a certified nursing assistant who split her work weeks between two facilities. Her hourly rate was less than $20.

“I felt like the pay wasn’t guaranteed, and you had to fight for your hours,” she says.

So she made a change: Abbas began contract work at Gale Healthcare Solutions, a Tampa-based technology company. Its app allows nurses to float between facilities and take shifts for a fixed contract price. In exchange for unemployment, contract nurses receive higher hourly wages and generous overtime and holiday compensation.

“If someone offered you double the salary for the same job, shoot, what would you do? That’s a no-brainer, right?” Michael Baumbach, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing, said.

Now, Abbas said, she rarely puts in less than 40 hours a week. Her pay ranges from $20 an hour to $40 on holidays. And the 29-year-old became a registered nurse six months ago.

Post-Covid-19, the nursing profession is still in crisis. Florida is expected to be short about 60,000 nurses by 2035. Florida Hospital Association. Three quarters of the US Nursing homes They were so thin that they were turned into contract nurses.

Launched in 2016 by CEO Tony Braswell, Gale; He grew up During the outbreak, traveling nurses became the norm for hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19. About 600 Florida facilities and 31,000 nurses across the state now use the app, the company said.

The company signed on former Google exec Khan Kotecha last summer and opened a new, quintuple-sized headquarters near Tampa’s Westshore District in December. Gale also a 60 million dollars Investment from FTV Capital in January 2022.

But Galle’s progress was not universal. Galle’s vice president of corporate affairs, Sandra German, confirmed that it laid off 80 to 90 employees earlier this year. The latest internal employment numbers are 350 nationally and 185 in Tampa Bay – 215 fewer than 500 national employees and 250-260 local employees. reported To the Tampa Bay Business Journal in December 2022.

Kotecha said the layoffs won’t hinder the company’s key goal — using machine learning and artificial intelligence to better predict how nurses and facilities will perform.

For smaller operations like Lakeland Nursing and Rehabilitation, overwhelmed with 100 more patients from the Clewiston facility that flooded last month, Galle encourages traditional staffing agencies like ShiftKey, said Fran Hall, the nursing facility’s staffing coordinator. She still fills 6 to 7 shifts a week with galley contractors.

Larger suppliers are taking a different approach. BayCare and HCA primarily use part-time workers in-house to fill shifts, spokespeople said. But other changes are on the horizon for nurses and patients.

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Two of BayCare’s 16 Florida hospitals are equipped with voice technology, enabled by Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa and health technology firm AVIA, which allows patients to connect directly to a nurse’s phone instead of pressing a call button.

Sarah Harrison says it appears as an Amazon Echo device in the background at BayCare Hospital's Wesley Chapel.  The devices control various functions in the room, from lighting to music.
Sarah Harrison says it appears as an Amazon Echo device in the background at BayCare Hospital’s Wesley Chapel. The devices control various functions in the room, from lighting to music. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

Technology is getting even better at new hospitals like BayCare’s Wesley Chapel outpost, which opened March 7. Alexa-enabled smart rooms allow patients to adjust lighting, air conditioning, blinds, music and TV with simple voice commands.

“There is no point in pushing [tech] Away,” Baumbach said, but contracts and patient-centered technology still won’t solve a big industry problem. Low pay For full-time employees.

“The easiest way to get people to stay is to pay them,” he said.


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