Hospitals are investing in their workforce: Is it paying off?

As healthcare providers grapple with major workforce shortages, many hospitals and health systems are spending big bucks to retain and recruit workers, whether it be through compensation or benefits.

Are these efforts paying off? Here are results from three health systems:

Student loan repayment

As part of efforts to recruit and retain workers, McLaren Flint (Mich.) Hospital announced in December that it would offer $1.5 million in student loan repayment benefits to employees.The hospital partnered with Goodly, a platform that assists companies in contributing to employees' student loans, to provide the benefits. 

Amy Dorr, regional vice president of human resources at McLaren Flint: 

"We are extremely pleased with the response to our student loan repayment benefit launched this past December. We have accepted 199 applicants into the program. The beneficiaries are both new hires and current staff. Registered nurses make up the largest group of recipients. However, 28 different job classifications are represented. The feedback from staff has been so incredibly positive. We could not be prouder to offer this innovative recruitment and retention benefit during such a historically challenging time in healthcare."

Referral bonuses

Last November, Longview, Texas-based Christus Good Shepherd Health System said it would offer a $1,500 referral bonus to recruit nurses.

It marked the first time the hospital has enlisted the public to extend the reach of its recruitment campaign, according to the health system.

Manuel Acuna, system director of talent acquisition at Christus Health:  

"One positive recruitment campaign that’s worth mentioning is taking place in East Texas. We are fortunate in Longview, Texas, to have great community support. We value the opinion of our patients and our community, so we are asking their help to connect us with people they know who would complement our experienced and talented nursing staff. We offer to reward them for good referrals. The campaign, which is still ongoing, is a true real win-win scenario. Successful referrals are rewarded with a bonus of $1,500, and the referred nurse has the opportunity for a rewarding career as part of Christus Good Shepherd's faith-based care for East Texas. So far we've paid out a few referrals, and it is great to see the smiles from some of those excited community recruiters who also happen to act as excellent cheerleaders for our organization."

Compensation increases

Centura Health has invested more than $176 million in its employees since March 2021, Sebastien Girard, Centura Health's senior vice president and chief people officer, told Becker's. The investment includes two salary market adjustments, a 3 percent salary increase in the fall of 2021, minimum wage increases, an improvement to its benefits programs and a market bonus option.

Additionally, Centura is investing $22 million to $24 million in loan forgiveness and child care support, which will begin inJuly, he said.

Sebastien Girard, senior vice president and chief people officer at Centura Health (Centennial, Colo.):

"These initiatives were driven by our associates, who told us during in-person meetings what they needed to be successful both at work and at home. Our senior vice president and Chief Nursing Officer, Brenda Simpson, met with 2,500 direct patient care associates, took the time to listen to their concerns and acted on the feedback they shared. Since the implementation of these initiatives in the fall of 2021, Centura has seen the following benefits:

  • Turnover is down by close to 12 percent for all positions, and more than 15 percent for nursing, far exceeding any normal seasonality shift.
  • Vacancy rates declined, and we saw stronger retention due to the high desirability of our benefits. During the last three months, the team recruited 26 percent more associates than the amount exiting the organization.
  • Of the 2,500 associates who accepted the market bonus almost four months ago, less than 0.002 percent have left the organization

Looking at this data, all early indicators show the investments in our outstanding associates are quickly paying off as we see significant progress in each key metric."

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