Nursing shortages have persisted since the 1990s. Every year, the call to urgency in inspiring enough new nurses to replace those who are aging out of the profession grows louder. Nearly two years into a global pandemic, the nursing profession continues to suffer under the strain of low staffing to meet demand. One of the most telling indicators that the situation is becoming dire is the number of job ads posted to nurse recruiting boards with hiring bonuses attached.
In this article we will explore:
- Why do healthcare organizations offer hiring bonuses?
- What are the current trends in nursing bonuses?
- How do you determine if the bonus offer is legit?
- How can you negotiate a better offer?
Why do quality healthcare organizations offer hiring bonuses?
Hardly anyone bats an eye when professional athletes receive astronomical bonuses to sign on with a team. Or when prestigious academic institutions offer top perks to attract the best and brightest. Why is it so suspect, then, when healthcare organizations do the same? Demand for top-notch nurses is high right now. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the nursing industry will grow by 7% to 45% between now and 2029, depending on nursing specialty. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are the most needed.
Sign-on bonuses are just part of the rewards package offered by reputable healthcare employers. They should be the icing on a cake of an already sweet deal, not the entire incentive. Base pay, benefits like paid time off and sick leave, tuition reimbursement, and opportunity for advancement are the kind of additional features any decent nursing job offer includes.
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What are the current trends in nursing bonuses?
Right now, it seems like anything goes with some of the hiring bonuses floating around in the healthcare industry. Health systems are leading the pack in tossing about some serious cash to get qualified candidates on their rosters. Some are having better luck than others. Here are some of what we are seeing in the nursing marketplace.
· Differentiation is the key to creating an offer that stands out in the crowd. Hospital systems are getting more competitive with each other, trying to attract the best and brightest in nursing to their facilities. Sign-on bonuses with most hospitals average around $15,000, according to an examination of job listings on nursing job boards. One hospital stepped up its game by doubling the average. Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta is offering up to $30,000 in additional compensation and relocation assistance to qualified candidates. They are not the only hospital system upping the ante with attractive perks.
· Incentives are not always the ticket to success but some incentives can be very attractive. Flexible hours, extra paid time off, tuition assistance, and sponsorship to seminars are just some incentives that may be attractive to a nurse. While offering any kind of bonus is better than nothing, healthcare organizations must accept that qualified candidates may opt to go with employers who invest a bit more in their hiring.
How do you determine if the bonus offer is legit?
Hiring bonuses can be an effective incentive when structured appropriately. It can be difficult for nurses to judge which offers are solid and which are just scams to get you in the door. Here are some tips for helping you sort out the best from the rest.
· Sign-on bonuses are in addition to, not in place of competitive base pay. Look at estimated nursing salaries for your field and location to determine if you are being offered a bonus or if the additional compensation was pulled from the base salary and disguised as a perk to get you in the door.
· Pay raises should never be excluded in any job offer that includes a sign-on bonus. Make sure you are not agreeing to forgo any raises in your base pay for a set number of years instead of the signing bonus.
· Conditional payouts should never be part of a sign-on bonus. In other words, if the offer says you will not be given the bonus until you work a certain number of hours or days (or even years) on the job, it is not a true incentive, and you may want to weigh the risks of accepting it.
How can you negotiate a better offer?
Nurses should not be afraid to ask for more, especially in the current job market. Nursing is and will continue to be in high demand for at least the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners are the most in-demand. NP jobs are expected to grow by 45% between now and 2029.
Here are some tips on how to negotiate a better offer:
· Ask for a higher wage. Yes, this is absolutely on the table, even if you are offered a significant sign-on bonus. Some perks like additional compensation are doled out over a set period, rather than given all at once. If you agree to get additional pay in increments, asking for a higher hourly wage is a fair trade-off. A good rule of thumb is to suggest a rate that is 15 to 20 percent higher than what is offered.
· Explore extended benefits. Healthcare organizations and private employers that cannot swing a higher salary may be willing to compensate with other extras instead. Asking for more paid time off or adding in sick days or flexibility in your work schedule are all reasonable negotiating points.
· Do your research. Before you ask for a higher wage or extended benefits, take time to research the current job market. See what healthcare employers are offering and what salaries align with your education and experience.
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