In Steamboat, some traveling nurses live where they work
Casey’s Pond expands on-site housing for traveling staff
Nursing assistant Brenda Pittman’s commute to work at Casey’s Pond Senior Living is just a short elevator ride.
The Louisiana mom of five adult children is working as a traveling staff member on assignment at Casey’s Pond, and her temporary apartment is an unoccupied resident room inside the upscale complex.
“It’s super nice, and I love it. This is unique,” said Pittman, who has worked as a nursing assistant for 28 years in all types of settings from hospitals to hospice.
In almost a year of traveling for work, this is Pittman’s first opportunity to live on-site.
On a budget and in Colorado with one of her children who is on the autism spectrum, Pittman was commuting to work by riding the bus from a hotel in Craig. The ride took more than an hour, including a transfer. Now, Pittman does not worry about arriving for her shift on time with her one-minute commute.
“I can actually relax and do my work,” Pittman said.
Management at nonprofit Casey’s Pond has utilized traveling staff hired through several third-party staffing agencies for about three years due to the nationwide shortage of nurses, said Brad Boatright, Casey’s Pond executive director.
The company has offered temporary accommodations sporadically since 2020, but starting in October, the senior living community opened up more on-site apartments to accommodate traveling staff. Visiting staff often cited difficulties in finding affordable short-term rentals in Steamboat, said Melissa Lahay, Casey’s Pond director of sales and marketing.
Currently, 18 traveling nurses live in vacant resident apartments, either as singles or sometimes with a roommate. If staff prefer, they can also eat in the community dining facilities with an employee discount, Lahay said.
Another visiting staff member, a licensed practical nurse who works evenings and lives in an on-site apartment, is often seen coming back from the ski resort with a snowboard under her arm, Lahay noted.
Providing on-site housing for up to 20 traveling nursing staff is another step the local employer must now take to attract enough employees.
With similar staffing needs, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center leases six condos as transitional housing for newly hired employees who are getting settled in the community and looking for their own housing. The condos are routinely full, said Lindsey Reznicek, YVMC communications strategist.
“Hiring critical health care providers and staff members at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has proven challenging due to the lack of affordable employee housing in Steamboat Springs,” Reznicek noted. “As one of the largest employers in Steamboat Springs, we are encouraged by the ongoing discussion, as well as the efforts underway to bring more employee housing to the area, and we are excited to partner with others in this important priority.”
Casey’s Pond offers a variety of levels of care ranging from independent living to memory support and skilled nursing, so the approximately 100 residents require care from some 130 employees.
“One of the biggest challenges we face at Casey’s Pond is ensuring our employees have access to affordable housing. People can’t work in a community if they can’t afford to live a quality life here,” Boatright said. “Like other businesses, we are competing for employees locally and nationally, and in order to provide traveling staff high quality, affordable housing, we made the decision to provide on-site housing for these team members.”
Boatright said many of the traveling staff come from Georgia, Florida or Texas and usually stay for a 13-week contract, though some will renew their contracts for up to a year.
The traveling nurses who take advantage of the housing arrangement are on a lower pay scale than traveling staff members who are responsible for their own housing, Boatright explained.
However, using traveling staff and employee housing can become another hiring recruitment tool.
Sometimes traveling staff fall for the Yampa Valley and become permanent employees, including a couple who recently were hired as the dining services director and chef at Casey’s Pond after starting as traveling staff in December.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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