Rachel Norton has been an intensive care nurse for 14 years. She has worked as a staff nurse in a hospital, as a flight nurse, and currently, as needed, for a system in Denver. And every now and then, she takes on travel nursing assignments, sometimes spending a month in a new hospital when needed.
Norton’s flexible nursing career has become more common in the last year, as nurses have taken on lucrative travel nursing contracts, reduced their hours, or left the workforce entirely due to burnout or retirement. anticipated. And the nurses are not alone.
Across the healthcare industry, healthcare providers are crying out for workers. Employment figures for the sector fell again in June, on a rollercoaster of peaks and troughs for more than a year that has yet to fully recover from the massive losses early in the COVID-19 pandemic. And while hospitals and other providers have seen some recovery, nursing homes have been on an almost constant downward trend since 2020.
“Everybody is looking for caregivers,” said Namrata Yocom-Jan, president of Seniors Helping Seniors, a home care franchise that is trying to fill more than 1,000 caregiver positions across the country. “I think the caregiver shortage has been front and center of home care for most of the five years. It has certainly also been exacerbated by COVID-19.”
Nationally, providers like Seniors Helping Seniors offer hiring incentives and, in some cases, retention or referral bonuses to attract and retain staff and address the labor shortage that the American Healthcare Association and the National Center for Assisted Living they call “a legitimate crisis.”
At Seniors Helping Seniors, which has more than 100 franchise partners in 30 states, franchisees offer workers a login bonus of $ 100 to $ 500, and a percentage of that bonus is donated directly to the Alzheimer’s Association. . The idea is to attract workers but also attract people who want to help charity, said Seniors Helping Seniors COO Daniel Jan.
“There are other companies that offer bonuses, but there are no companies that provide a greater good component to the hiring bonus. I think that will allow us to hire a different type of individual,” said Daniel Jan.
For Senior Helping Seniors caregivers, the hourly rate averages $ 12-13, which is an increase of approximately $ 1.50 over the past year. However, increasing salaries generally means increasing rates for clients, so it is a balance to maintain margins, Daniel Jan said.
“Because caregivers are so vital to our older adults, we want to make sure they are well compensated. But we also have to make sure that we are making a margin as well,” he said.
Nebraska Medicine offers undisclosed bonuses to roles it calls “critical talent.” These are positions that the system has trouble hiring for and where there is a shortage, such as emergency department nurses, physician assistants and certified nursing assistants, said Frank Venuto, director of human capital for Nebraska Health.
“To compete, we had to offer hiring bonuses,” Venuto said.
While bonuses are nothing new to attract for high-demand roles, the amount of bonuses and the price of those incentives is higher, Venuto said.
“The reality is that we need to adequately staff our patient care units and other areas within the organization,” Venuto said. “Eat in our margins. We know it and we plan for it. So we look for cost efficiencies in other areas to be able to meet labor costs.”
The system is constantly working to build its portfolio of new talent, Venuto said. Nebraska Health offers scholarship opportunities for people from minority communities and will directly help pay off a student’s debt if they work for the system.
DCH Health System in West Alabama offers $ 15,000 signing bonuses to med Surge nurses and the emergency department, as well as hiring bonuses for intensive care nurses and women’s services who commit to working full time in a of the two largest areas of the system. facilities for one year. The program started in the spring and has already encouraged students who won’t graduate until 2022 to enroll.
DCH Health has offered bonuses before, but never higher, said Lori Royer Sommers, director of compensation, employment and workforce development human resources for DCH Health.
“This is the most we’ve done in a one-year period,” said Royer Summers. “I think what happened during COVID is that a lot of nurses went to travel. We hope the bonuses help.”
The system also offers bonuses of $ 6,000 to employees who refer full-time registered nurses.
Norton, who also works with Vivian Health, a job market for healthcare workers, said some hospitals in his area are offering signing bonuses of up to $ 25,000 to potential employees, while others are providing medical benefits to new hires in your first day on the job.
“I think login bonuses are a great way to attract staff, especially if there are staff in the area,” Norton said. “I would like hospitals to offer at least a portion to highly experienced nurses without any compromise.”
The bonuses that come with time commitments can sometimes be seen as a red flag for nurses who worry about being trapped in a understaffed workplace, Norton said.
“Are you going to get there and have very little staff? Those are the kinds of things that make you want to leave a place,” Norton said.
For many nurses, the culture of the workplace may be more important than a one-time bonus, she said.
“That is a nationwide fight for hospitals, especially when we come out of the pandemic. Nurses have turned away from the bed because they are burned. It is almost as if no amount of money could attract them back to the workplace,” he said Norton.
An added benefit
David Coppins, co-founder and CEO of IntelyCare, a workforce management solution for post-acute facilities, said employers cannot rely on one-time bonuses to retain workers.
“Instead, they should listen to employees and provide them with meaningful benefits while paying them what they deserve,” Coppins said. “Making this type of investment can go a long way in ensuring that workers feel protected and appreciated.”
Nurses have told IntelyCare they want increased health and neglect insurance, retirement plans, wellness services, discounts for childcare and help with necessities like groceries, Coppins said.
Some companies, like the home health care startup Papa, are trying to offer other benefits for workers to join their ranks.
Papa introduced a hybrid office at his Miami headquarters, offering paid parental leave, offering a 401K add-on, and giving workers a monthly lunch stipend and a Spotify account. The company seeks to add another 400 employees to its workforce by the end of the year.
“We think beyond hourly rates; we really think profit,” said Andrew Parker, CEO and founder of Papa.