Hospitals offering nurses as much as $10,000 in signing bonuses to fill shortages

DENVER - The terms "signing bonus: and "recruiting" are usually reserved fro top-paid professional athletes. Now add nurses to that list.

Hospitals across the country are facing a shortage of nurses, and they're stepping up the incentives to fill the jobs.

Patients aren't the only ones happy that Christina Predo is working at UCHealth. After all, the hospital gave her a $10,000 signing bonus as an incentive to take the job.

"Other offers before that hadn't even come close," Predo said.

Predo needed to find a job where her husband was being relocated. With several offers on the table, in the end it was UCHealth's signing bonus and other perks that sealed the deal.

"They offered all sorts of help to help move here," Predo said. "They offered someone to actually find me a neighborhood to live in which was awesome. None of the other hospitals actually offered to do that."

What's behind the big bonuses? A shortage of nurses. With more than 500,000 seasoned registered nurses expected to retire by 2022, there's a projected need for 1.1 million new nurses to avoid a shortage.

Hospitals across the country, including UCHealth, are feeling that crunch already.

"Well I'll tell you what, we have about 300 positions open," said Kathy Howell, Chief Nursing Executive at UCHealth.

Howell says growth has created a greater demand for nurses, and a good economy means more nurses are opting to retire. That's why there's a concerted effort to make the offer to work at UCHealth as attractive as possible, even allowing out-of-state nurses to try out the hospital for a year and covering their housing costs.

"They go from assignment to assignment within our health system," Howell says. "We also give them a housing stipend, and we usually convert between 35 and 40 percent of them to full-time employees."

Most new nurse hires get around $5,000 to sign, which Howell doesn't think is out of line.

"When you look at what turnover of nurses costs and what not having the right nursing complement is to your hospital," Howell says. "That is a very reasonable investment."

Ultimately, Howell says it's about delivering the right care to patients, and creating the right environment for the nurses they hire.

"It's a real comradery. Everyone is super super nice, you really have a say in what you're doing here, your opinion actually matters you don't feel like a number," Predo said.

A new way to fill the need for nurses, with a payoff, multifold.

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