Even $10K+ bonuses aren't alleviating 'critical' nurse shortage in Western Pennsylvania

Some healthcare leaders are deeming the nursing shortage in Western Pennsylvania "critical," reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The shortage is occurring in a region characterized by a rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce, and has been only further exacerbated by the pandemic. 

UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, both based in Pittsburgh, had more than 2,200 openings for registered and licensed nurses posted online last week, according to the Tribune-Review. UPMC, the state's largest employer, is offering recruitment bonuses up to $10,000 for registered nurses, while AHN is offering up to $15,000 for more experienced nurses.

Some personal care homes and assisted living facilities are paying as much as $50 an hour to fill pressing vacancies for nonlicensed caregivers, said Margie Zelenak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association. At least two personal care homes told her they decided to close in recent weeks, with one citing an inability to hire help.  

Since May 2020, employment in nursing homes and residential facilities across the six-county region has dropped by 1,100 workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"We are having a horrible time hiring to fill positions," said John Dickson, president and CEO of Greensburg, Pa.-based Redstone Presbyterian SeniorCare. Even before the pandemic, Redstone worked through the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania to bring in nurses from the Philippines.

Greensburg-based Excela Health, which operates three hospitals and multiple outpatient facilities, plans to implement an international contract for nurses this fall, a spokesperson told the Tribune-Review.

In 2018, AHN recruited 150 registered nurses from the Philippines and Caribbean islands, which have similar professional standards. Claire Zangerle, DNP, MSN, chief nurse executive at AHN, said the program, which has the nurses come on three-year work visas, has been a success with a high retention rate. However, the system is still short about 300 nurses, Dr. Zangerle told WPXI-TV.  


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