Given the unprecedented impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had upon hospitals and medical centers in specific cities and regions of the U.S., we wanted to get a reading of these effects on the Tampa Bay area job market for physicians and nurses. Dr. Charles Wright, former Chief of Staff at Tampa General Hospital and currently Medical Director at the LifeLink of Florida, sat down for an interview and gave us his sense of “where things stand” there currently.
Q.: Do you see the data from the CDC being relatively accurate, as to the infections and deaths from the virus, for the areas you’re working in and/or are aware of?
Dr. Wright: Well, I don’t go to the CDC for the numbers, since they’re far more available on the Florida Department of Health website, which shows the number of COVID-19 deaths, number of confirmed cases and the number of tests done in each county in Florida. If I’m looking for world numbers, I go to World Meter (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/), which is a great resource for getting the global picture of the pandemic. I do go to CDC daily for updates on things like employee safety, personal protective gear recommendations, strategies for dealing with employees who have been out coming back to work, etc.
Q.: Do you sense TGH/other local hospitals is/are prepared for the surge in demand? Enough ventilators? Enough physicians? Enough nursing staff?
Dr. Wright: Luckily, the surge in Hillsborough County hasn’t been as bad as it has been in Miami-Dade. Hillsborough County, and Tampa, in particular, went to “Safe at Home” sooner than anywhere else in the state of Florida. So, actually, the hospital census is low, because Tampa General stopped doing elective surgeries, people are afraid to go to the emergency rooms, and they’re not going for procedures they might have gone for otherwise. People aren’t driving as much, so there aren’t as many crashes, there are fewer construction injuries, due to the decrease in construction, and with people staying at home, there’ve been just fewer people coming into the hospital. If there had been a surge like was seen in New York, I don’t think any hospital, really, was ready for a surge like that. But Tampa General was probably as ready as any hospital could be, given its having been built with intrinsic surge capacity measures and having its own in-house COVID-19 test (oral pharyngeal PCR swab), which has been used since February. The majority of the Bay Area hospitals have gone to their hurricane preparedness algorithms, getting as many people as is practically possible out of the hospital, getting nurses set up to work long shifts, possibly staying overnight at the hospital, etc. Although, this pandemic is not like a hurricane, which is typically over in a few days. This is like a marathon. But this protocol is a starting place.
Q.: How do you see the job market for medical professionals in the Tampa Bay area being affected by COVID-19?
Acutely, I’ve found there has been, surprisingly, lots of medical underemployment. Hospital specialists, internal medicine hospitalists, intensivists, anesthesia critical care, pulmonary critical care, nephrologists and gastroenterologists are busy in the hospital with COVID-19 patients in the ICU’s. But many other doctors are just not working now. OB/GYNs are delivering babies, but no one is currently coming in for mammograms or breast exams. Many are using the phone or telemedicine to check in with their patients. The fact is, many doctors’ offices are closed or all but closed, and that includes other specialists. Orthopedic surgeons, for example, are almost unemployed, since there aren’t as many accidents and they aren’t doing any elective surgeries. Also, due to the low overall census in the hospitals, many of the contracts are being canceled for the traveling nurses who’re typically down here to Florida at this time of year — those who are here to help with the usual surge in hospitals from ‘snowbirds’ (elderly people from Northern states) who come down here in the winter. I’m sure all of those people I’ve mentioned are going to go back to work, once all the social distancing measures are relaxed; but for the time being, there are a lot of underemployed medical staff here.
Q.: Do you have any insights about job opportunities for doctors and nurses there in the Tampa Bay area?
Dr. Wright: At this moment, no. If you’re an intensivist or an emergency room physician, you could probably find a position. Same with pulmonary critical care and anesthesia critical care; they’ve got a lot of work. Also, nurses who have experience in the emergency room and critical care. And maybe general hospital staff nurses and non-critical care unit nurses. But many of those are brought in from the medical floors and post-operative floors, who are brought up to speed to fill in when there’s a need. As I said, right now, from what I’ve heard, it’s a soft market.
Thanks so much, Dr. Wright, for sharing with our readers your perspective on the current physician and nursing job market in the Tampa Bay area. We wish you and yours the very best!
If you’re a job-seeking physician or nurse who has the background and experience being pointed to in the article, know that a Tampa Bay hospital may have a position you can fill. (See the link below for a 2019 listing of the largest hospitals in Tampa Bay, including their contact info and links to their websites.)
See available physician job opportunities in Florida here:
See available nursing/allied health job opportunities in Florida here: