Practical nurse Brenda Pittman’s commute to work at Casey’s Pond Senior Living is only a short elevator ride away.
The Louisiana mother of five adult children works as a traveling staff member on assignment at Casey’s Pond, and her temporary apartment is an unoccupied resident room inside the upscale resort.
“It’s super cool and I love it. It’s unique,” said Pittman, who worked as a practical nurse for 28 years in all types of settings, from hospitals to hospices.
In nearly a year of traveling for work, this is Pittman’s first opportunity to live locally.
On a budget and in Colorado with one of his children on the autism spectrum, Pittman would commute to work by bus from a hotel in Craig. The trip took over an hour including transfer. Now Pittman isn’t worried about arriving on time for his shift with his one-minute commute.
“I can actually relax and do my job,” Pittman said.
Management at the nonprofit Casey’s Pond has used traveling staff hired by multiple third-party recruitment agencies for about three years due to nationwide nursing shortages, said Casey’s executive director Brad Boatright. Pond.
The company has offered temporary accommodation sporadically since 2020, but from October the senior community opened more apartments on-site to accommodate traveling staff. Visiting staff often cited difficulties finding affordable short-term rentals in Steamboat, said Melissa Lahay, director of sales and marketing for Casey’s Pond.
Currently, 18 traveling nurses live in vacant resident apartments, either on their own or sometimes with roommates. If staff prefer, they can also eat at community restaurants with an employee discount, Lahay said.
Another guest staff member, a licensed practical nurse who works evenings and lives in an on-site apartment, often returns from the ski resort with a snowboard under her arm, Lahay noted.
Providing on-site accommodation for up to 20 traveling nurses is another measure the local employer must now take to attract enough employees.
With similar staffing needs, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center rents six condos as transitional housing for newly hired employees moving into the community and looking for their own homes. Condos are regularly full, said Lindsey Reznicek, communications strategist for YVMC.
“Hiring essential healthcare providers and staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center has proven difficult due to the lack of affordable employee housing in Steamboat Springs,” Reznicek noted. “As one of Steamboat Springs’ largest employers, we are encouraged by the ongoing discussion, as well as the ongoing efforts to bring more employee housing to the area, and are delighted 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 the care of some 130 staff.
“One of the biggest challenges we face at Casey’s Pond is ensuring that our employees have access to affordable housing. People can’t work in a community if they can’t afford to live a quality life there,” Boatright said. “Like other businesses, we compete to recruit employees locally and nationally, and in order to provide traveling staff with affordable, high-quality housing, we have made the decision to provide on-site housing to these team members.”
Boatright said many traveling staff come from Georgia, Florida or Texas and typically stay on a 13-week contract, although some renew their contracts for up to a year.
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, the use of traveling staff and employee housing can become another recruitment tool.
Sometimes traveling staff fall in love with the Yampa Valley and become permanent employees, including a couple who were recently hired as Food Services Manager and Chef at Casey’s Pond after starting as traveling staff in December.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email [email protected]