7 efforts launched in 2021 to recruit, retain healthcare employees

As hospitals and health systems struggle with labor shortages, several turned to different recruitment and retention strategies.

Here are seven efforts made in 2021 to combat labor shortages:

1. Affordable employee housing

Two Idaho hospitals in tourist towns — St. Luke's McCall Medical Center and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center — are providing employees with housing options as many leave jobs or turn down offers because of rising costs of living. 

St. Luke's Wood River is building 12 housing units and St. Luke's McCall has purchased homes to provide employees as a short-term option. Both hospitals said they will explore additional options.

2. Academic financial assistance

New Lenox, Ill.-based Silver Cross Hospital partnered with Romeoville, Ill.-based Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Sciences this fall to provide students with loan repayment support. Lewis nursing graduates can receive up to $27,000 in loan repayment if they work at Silver Cross upon graduating.

Memorial Hospital at Gulfport (Miss.) announced this fall its program that provides registered nurses in long-term care facilities with up to $20,000 in student loan repayments. In return, these nurses agree to two-year contracts. 

According to withfrank.org, at least 45 hospitals in the U.S. offer employees academic assistance, including Seattle Children's Hospital and West Virginia University Medicine in Morgantown.

3. Wage increases and appreciation bonuses

A popular strategy for many healthcare organizations has been increasing employee wages and providing "thank you" bonuses for staff's work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several hospital execs told Becker's these bonuses have helped with employee retention and recruitment. 

Erik Christenson, CEO of Rugby, N.D.-based Heart of America Medical Center, said the 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."

4. Relocation costs 

Montana officials said Nov. 2 that the state is offering healthcare workers money to move there. The incentive, part of the governor's Health Care Workforce Relocation Assistance program, involves reimbursing new employees up to $12,500 for moving expenses, plus 35 percent of the total reimbursement cost to offset expected taxes. 

To be eligible for the program, healthcare providers must commit to move to Montana and be employed in the state for at least 12 consecutive months.

5. Referral bonuses 

Longview, Texas-based Christus Good Shepherd Health System said Nov. 1 it is offering a $1,500 referral bonus to recruit nurses, part of a recruitment campaign.

It marked the first time the hospital has enlisted the public to extend the reach of the campaign, according to Christus.

6. "Pay on demand"

At the beginning of 2022, Pascagoula, Miss.-based Singing River Health System plans to offer a "pay on demand" option for nurses to receive their paychecks, Jessica Lewis, the health system's executive director of human resources, told the Sun Herald. 

The option allows nurses to receive their paychecks as soon as a day after they work a shift, Ms. Lewis told the newspaper.

7. Longevity bonuses

Annapolis, Md.-based Luminis Health said Oct. 26 it was offering a bonus to full-time bedside registered nurses with more than two decades of experience, part of a $29 million investment in employee recruitment and retention. 

Overall, the investment, including the longevity bonuses, affects about 6,700 employees.

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