Healthcare employers may have reached desperate measures as the number of nurses in America continue to decline. Now, they are offering extravagant perks and incentives in the form of 5-digit bonuses, free housing, and free college education to employees and their children. US nurses, perhaps, are one of the most highly-requested occupations today.
“These are some of the grandiose examples we’ve heard from our members,” according to an interview with the director of nursing practice and work environment of the American Nurses Association, Seun Ross. “Who knows what employers will come up with next?”
Ross added that America is experiencing a rapid decrease of nurses. A few contributing factors behind it are the large number of tenured nurses retiring, and the shortage in nursing graduates that could replenish the workforce.
America’s aging population also adds to the problem. The country needs to produce about 1 million nursing graduates by 2022 to meet United State’s health care needs.
One of the generous hospitals that offer enticing work perks is UCHealth.
UCHealth has 9 acute-care hospitals, and more than 100 clinics in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Currently, UCHealth has 330 job openings for nurses, and they have been recruiting candidates from other states, as well from other countries.
According to Kathy Howell, chief nursing executive for UCHealth, they offer relocation allowances, as well as signing bonuses that can reach up to $10,000. The UCHealth entices new candidates with their irresistible perks such as, up to $4,000 a year for the nurses to continue their education. They also have what they call the Traveler RN program, which enables nurses a 13-week rotation at the UCHealth’s various facilities.
Another company who offers enticing work perks is Inova Health System. According to the company’s chief nursing officer, Maureen E. Sintich, they offer a signing bonus of $20,000, as well as reimbursable relocation costs up to $20,000 to new nurse recruits who have at least a 2-year experience in critical care, and reside more than 50 miles away from Inova Health System’s hospital in Washington, D.C. For the candidates who live within 50 miles of Inova’s hiring hospitals, they are being offered a $10,000 signing bonus.
On the other hand, West Virginia’s WVU Medicine, which operates 8 hospitals across the state, offers tuition reimbursement for employees and their kids.
“It’s for nurses and for all of our staff who’ve been here for five or more years. We’re also extending it for their children to fully cover their college tuition if they go to West Virginia University or partially cover tuition if they go elsewhere,” said the director of WVU Medicine Nursing Administration, Mary Fanning in an interview.
WVU also offers free housing for nurses as part of their commuter program. They are now looking for 200 nurses, and are offering precious perks to recruit new candidates, as well as to retain their existing staff.
Lacy Russell, 24, is one of WVU’s nurses who applied for the position in the intensive care unit after she knew about the commuter program. The program includes a free place to stay for nurses who live 60- 90 miles away from WVU’s hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. Russel, who lives an hour and 20 minutes away from the hospital, started working at WVU in 2016. She stays at the hospital’s owned lodging during her shift, which is Friday to Sunday.
“I save so much on gas by not having to drive back and forth,” Russel said. “I graduated from nursing school with $30,000 in student debt. So this really helps.”
Russel adds, her plan is to work for a few years more, and take advantage of the tuition reimbursement perk, so she can acquire trainings and improve her skills.
The work perks may help resolve the America’s nurse crisis – but only for the mean time. There’s a greater factor that could hamper to the hospital’s recruitment of new hires, and that’s the booming economy of the US.
According to Susan Salka, CEO of AMN Healthcare, a thriving economy may not be good for America’s nursing industry.
“During economic downturns, nurses stay put in their jobs and attrition dips,” Salka, said. “When the economy is booming, attrition goes up. Nurses feel more comfortable pulling back on their hours or moving ahead with their retirement decision.”
Salka adds, if the partners of the nurses are doing well with their job and are receiving a good amount of secured income, they may start to feel comfortable in resigning from their grueling jobs.
Ross from American Nurses Association worries that grand bonuses and enticing perks may not be enough to keep the nurses in the long run.
“What’s to stop nurses from accepting a job because of the perks and then hop to another hospital after two years because of their perks,” Ross said.
She said, the better resolution would be improving the work environment of nurses, and offer better compensations, finer career growth opportunities, and favorable work schedules to prevent burn out.
“All it takes is for one nurse to tell her friend that where she works is a great place for these reasons and applications will come in,” she said.