Can hefty sign-on, retention bonuses solve the nurse shortage?

A looming nurse shortage has led hospitals across the country to offer nurses huge sign-on bonuses as incentives to join and stay at their organizations.

Portland Regional Hospital in Valparaiso, Indiana, is currently offering $7,500 bonuses to nurses with at least two years of critical care or emergency room experience.

In Atlanta, hospital leaders have offered signing bonuses of $10,000 to $20,000 as well as relocation packages to entice experienced nurses--particularly labor and delivery and catheterization lab nurses--to their organizations, according to WSB-TV Atlanta. To qualify for the extra money, the nurses must agree to work at the organizations for two years.

The incentives seem to be working. Megan Groover, assistant VP of talent acquisition for the non-profit Wellstar Health System, told the television station that the organization has hired 500 nurses in the past year.

The bonuses, a common practice to entice physicians, were popular in Arizona in the 1970s during the last major nursing shortage. So hospitals in the state are trying it again, offering experienced nurses from out-of-state an extra $10,000 to join their teams, the Arizona Capitol Times reports.

The United States will need 1.1 million new registered nurses by 2022 to fill jobs and replace retirees, the American Nurses Association has said. But federal statistics indicate that Arizona will face the greatest shortfall of nurses and will need as many as 28,000 nurses by 2025, the publication reports. Part of the deficit is due to the number of nurses set to retire in the next 10 years. And though there are a large number of recent graduates entering the workforce, hospitals want to hire experienced nurses to ensure patients receive proper care.

 "It costs extra money to fully orient a newly graduated nurse and to help them transition to practice," Robin Schaeffer, the executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association, told the publication. "A lot of the healthcare systems are reluctant to invest that type of money into a new graduate."

The nursing shortage is so severe in Vermont that it forced Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, which opened just over a year ago, to shut down one of its units, according to Vermont Public Radio. To deal with the state-wide shortage, the organization is trying to come up with a bonus package to attract nurses to 16 unfilled positions.

To learn more:
- here's the Portland Regional posting
- read the WSB-TV Atlanta coverage
- here's the Arizona Capitol Times report
- check out the VPR story

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