Hefty sign-on bonuses not 'wildly successful' for recruiting nurses, AHN leader says

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An already severe nursing shortage exacerbated by the pandemic means many hospitals are offering hefty sign-on bonuses to recruit and retain talent, though some leaders say it's not working very effectively, Bradford Era reported.

"People think that these sign-on bonuses are going to pull people out of the woodwork that aren't working," said Claire Zangerle, DNP, RN, chief nurse executive at Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network. However, Dr. Zangerle said, "it hasn't been highly, wildly successful."

The health system was offering bonuses of almost $15,000 depending on experience, according to Bradford Era. Nearby, UPMC was offering similar bonuses, with nearly 800 unfilled nursing positions earlier this week.

Most bonuses are based on experience, and nurses with the most experience often aren't willing to leave their current jobs because of accrued perks such as vacation time. 

"Staffing is a major pain point for health systems right now," said Lauren Rewers with healthcare research firm Advisory Board. Sign-on bonuses can only go so far, Ms. Rewers said, noting that new-hire incentives and sign-on bonuses could backfire.

"Some of our people are ticked," Dr. Zangerle told the Bradford Era. "They're like, 'What the heck? You're giving Jane Smith $15,000 to come here, and I've been here this whole time.'"

"Now is the time for employers to think about how to differentiate themselves in their markets in ways that aren't just offering sign-on bonuses," Ms. Rewers said, pointing to child care offerings, virtual care and flexible scheduling as other possibilities.

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