Appreciation bonuses helping with retention, hospital execs say

U.S. hospital and health system workers have been serving nearly two years on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. To recognize these workers, organizations have offered bonus payments during the public health crisis. It has been part of an ongoing effort to retain and recruit employees as hospitals deal with staff shortages and burnout during surges of the virus.

Becker's reached out to three healthcare leaders to see if these bonuses have boosted retention. 

Heart of America Medical Center

Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, N.D., announced in October 2020 a second round of bonuses for workers. The bonuses, $1,000 for full-time employees and $250 to $500 for part-time employees, came after the first round gave $500 to full-time employees and $250 to part-time employees. 

Erik Christenson, CEO of Heart of America Medical Center, said the retention bonuses "provided a much-needed boost for our staff at a time when many were struggling with the various economic toils of the COVID pandemic. These bonuses did help to retain many of our dedicated team members and helped to assure that our community continues to receive the very best in rural medicine."

Mr. Christenson also noted that the medical center did not have significant turnover during that time.

Cooper University Health Care

Employees at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, N.J., received "hero pay" bonuses of up to $1,500 in September 2020. 

"Cooper University Health Care was among some of the first hospitals in the nation to offer a 'hero bonus' for team members during the pandemic. In addition, we also provided a year-end bonus. Our team members appreciated the recognition of their tremendous efforts and hard work," said Beth Green, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Cooper University Health Care. 

The system could not provide any "hard data" on how the bonus affected retention.

UMass Memorial Health

Worcester, Mass.-based UMass Memorial Health provided their employees with bonuses both in 2021 and in 2020. In both cases, the bonuses ranged from $125 to $500, depending on how many hours the employee worked.

Bart Metzger, chief human resources officer of UMass Memorial Health, said the bonuses helped with retention, but other efforts were needed as well.

"This focus includes implementing their ideas on how to improve their everyday work environment (we have accrued nearly 100,000 ideas over the last seven years), our UMatter Central portal where caregivers can recognize their colleagues with shout-outs, e-cards and cash awards for celebrations or work efforts that exceed expectations," he said of the retention efforts. "We also have implemented our Standards of Respect, created with input from thousands of caregivers from across the system who responded to questions about which behaviors help caregivers, patients and families feel respected and supported." 


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