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Incentives: A Creative Way to Keep Nurses on the Job

Incentives: A Creative Way to Keep Nurses on the Job

Hospitals are having a hard time keeping their nursing staff on the job. Currently, there is a massive nursing shortage in the US. This is due to a few reasons, including a large cohort of nurses retiring, more nurses choosing to take a break from the fast-paced, high-stress career and not enough young nursing graduates to fill-in the gap.

A big part of the problem is the rapidly aging workforce. Nursing isn’t the only industry feeling the crunch, but its shortage can have a seriously adverse effect.  It’s inevitable, as people age, they require more medical attention but what happens when there aren’t enough nurses to care for them?  According to the American Nurses Association, as many as one million new nurses will need to start working by 2022 to meet the healthcare needs of the population.

While there isn’t much that can be done about the number of nurses who are retiring, there are a few things that can be done to encourage younger nurses to remain on the job and perhaps even entice more people to join the industry.

One of the more recent and controversial tactics that have been implemented in hospitals across the U.S. has been to approach nursing recruitment like a sports agents would. Monetary perks, workplace incentives and anything else that is considered attractive to younger nurses are being used to get signatures at the bottom of job offers.  Young nurses who are in the job market can expect to be approached with a number of things to think about such as:

Signing bonuses

The nursing industry is not the first place that one would think to negotiate five-figure signing bonuses but, that is exactly what has happened.  Some hospitals are coming up with financial incentives to get new nurses in the door and hopefully create an air of loyalty.  That means that new recruits can see as much as $10,000 just for saying yes to the job. 

Continuing Education

Other hospitals are seeing the benefit of offering to help their nurses with continuing education. For example, one hospital is investing up to $4,000 a year for their nurses to upgrade their skills. Some have even opened up tuition reimbursement for their nurses and their children as a way an enticing way get nurses to work for their hospital. Another, more creative and perhaps slightly less pricey option has been to provide opportunities for RNss to work at different (sister) facility for a number of weeks.

Housing and subsidized relocation costs

For some hospitals, the nursing shortage has reached such a critical point that the search for qualified nurses to fill their job vacancies has gone beyond the local community, state, and even country into international recruitment. For a nurse who is considering taking a new job across the country the cost of relocating themselves and family is a big factor in the decision-making process. To help, some hospitals are offering subsidized relocation costs.

For nurses who have to commute long distances for work, some hospitals are doing a throwback to the days when nurses lived on-site at the hospital campus and providing accommodations. This allows nurses who face a long commute after an equally long shift the option to stay close to the hospital, allowing for the nurse to get the rest they need, save money and time.  There have even been stories of nurses of putting the money they save on gas towards their student loans.

But what about retention?

While these and other perks are a great way to entice new employees, they might not be enough to retain those nurses who are currently employed with their hospitals.  Some medical staffing agencies worry that the upswing in the economy will actually hurt the nursing industry. While most companies, especially those who specialize in retail, see the good side of a booming economy, hospitals see the opposite. 

During an economic upswing, many two-income households feel comfortable enough to move to living on one income. Nurses who might have young children or, who are feeling overwhelmed by the sometimes heavy emotional toll their jobs have on them, will decide to pull back on their hours or take fewer shifts.

A job like nursing is fast pace and at times high pressured. When those things are not managed accordingly, they can lead to burnout, which is a common affliction for nurses.  When a nurse feels more financially comfortable, they are more inclined to walk away from their career for a few years or, move forward with their early retirement plans. Depending on how many people choose to do this and the timing in which they do it, it can lead to a significant gap in a hospital nursing staff.

Some staffing professionals, say, that hospitals need to take a look at the big picture, not just how to get those new nurses in the door, but rather how to keep them there.  A good way to do this is to find out from the nurses themselves what they need and want from their workplace.

Building job satisfaction

Just because a nurse signed a nice big bonus when the decision came to take a new job, doesn’t mean that they will remain loyal to their employers.  Perhaps a bigger and better opportunity waits around the corner. This is especially true for those who may not be 100% satisfied with their job and their role within the hospital they work.  It might take a little work on behalf of the hospital administration but by collaborating with their nursing staff they can ensure that:

  • Their employees feel valued and heard. 
  • Their nurses feel that they have the workplace flexibility to maintain a good balance between their careers and their home life
  • Their nursing staff will feel inclined to remain at a job during the good times and the bad times
  • Patient care remains a number one priority for everyone

Don’t forget about the patients

With the potential for a nursing shortage crisis looming, it’s easy for recruiters and hospital administration to focus on getting nurses on the floor rather than patient care. For hospitals who might be facing a nursing shortage, it’s important to build a solid game plan that focuses on both recruitment and retention and the needs of their patients. This is especially true as the workforce continues to age and the need for more nurses grows.

For nurses who are in the job market, they should do their research about their potential workplace - especially if they are being swayed by sweet perks. While a signing bonus, relocation costs, and other incentives are lovely.  They do not necessarily result in a harmonious work environment. Before signing that piece of paper, be sure to ask the right questions about the workplace. If possible, speak with a current nurse on staff or even patients who have received care at that particular location. 

At the end of the day, what matters most is the care that a patient will receive and the satisfaction that nurses get from knowing that they are doing a good job and that their work matters. This by far is the best incentive there is.  You cannot put a price being able to help someone who may be battling an illness.