GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Hospitals across the state and nation are struggling to keep nurses staffed. It’s also impacting two major healthcare systems in Eastern North Carolina.

“North Carolina is projected to have 17,000 nurses as a gap between the next 5 to 7 years,” said Dr. Daphne Brewington, senior vice president nurse executive for ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville.

Health experts say many things are leading to these gaps.

“We have a lot of baby boomers at the retirement age,” Brewington said. “There are so many avenues nurses can take to practice today and the pipeline and the number of students interested in health careers has decreased.”

These reasons are making health systems get creative.

“Across the board, we have $10,000 sign-on bonuses,” said Lesley Hunter, vice president of human resources at CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern. “Previously they weren’t that high and that is attracting people, but that’s just the market and it’s what you have to pay for people to look at your organization.”

CarolinaEast and ECU Health are also utilizing travel nurses. They both have internal travel staffing programs to save money on third-party recruiters and to bring in temporary nurses to fill the gaps.

“They are our team members and they get to work 13 weeks on a unit and can travel across ECU Health,” Brewington said. “This program is going to add to the nursing workforce we have today, and we will be able to attract even more nurses to Eastern North Carolina.”

“As of (Tuesday), we hired 19 internal travelers and have three more candidates,” Hunter said. “The internal travel program is working, and we’re starting to see some stabilization, which is good news.”

All these things are in an effort to continue providing excellent care to patients for years to come.

“We want to make sure that not only are we addressing our needs at the moment, but we can address the needs that are gonna be here in 5 or 10 years,” Hunter said.

“We’ve had these cycles where we’ve had shortages of nurses but never to this extent,” Brewington said. “I’m confident we’ll get our footing and get back to that place of ensuring we have the nursing resources for the foreseeable future to be able to provide care.”

To see openings at both locations, visit their websites, ECU Health and CarolinaEast.