Hospitals Offer Bonuses, Free Housing And Tuition To Recruit Nurses

Five-figure signing bonuses, free housing, college tuition for employees and their children? Hospitals and other medical facilities are offering all sorts of pricey perks and incentives to recruit and retain nurses according to a recent piece on CNN Money.

The article states that "These are some of the grandiose examples we've heard from our members," said Seun Ross, director of nursing practice and work environment at the American Nurses Association. "Who knows what employers will come up with next?"

America is undergoing a massive nursing shortage. Not only are experienced nurses retiring at a rapid clip, but there aren't enough new nursing graduates to replenish the workforce, said Ross.

The nation's aging population is exacerbating the problem. The American Nurses Association estimates the U.S. will need to produce more than one million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill the country's health care needs.

UCHealth, which operates nine acute-care hospitals and more than 100 clinics across Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, currently has 330 openings for registered nurses. Since the nonprofit health system can't find all the nurses it needs locally, it has been seeking out candidates from other states -- and sometimes other countries.

To entice these new recruits, it has offered relocation allowances and signing bonuses of up to $10,000, said Kathy Howell, chief nursing executive for UCHealth.

UCHealth is trying to sweeten the pot in other ways, as well. It provides nurses with up to $4,000 a year to invest in continuing education. And it offers the Traveler RN program, which allows nurses to do a 13-week rotation at different UCHealth facilities.

The article also states that the American Nurses Association's Ross worries that rich bonuses and creative perks may not go far enough to retain nurses in the long run.

"What's to stop nurses from accepting a job because of the perks and then hop to another hospital after two years because of their perks," she said.

A better approach would be to invest in improving the work environment for nurses and offering better pay, career development and hours to help make sure they don't burn out, she said.

"All it takes is for one nurse to tell her friend that where she works is a great place for these reasons and applications will come in," Ross said.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. I am scared to get older…some nurses graduating now are in it for the money-not the commitment to care. The concepts of critical thinking seem too hard for some-if not textbook, what do I do?
    I have worked in nursing since 1973-first an LPN to RN to BSN to CNS. I paid for most of my own education. I have seen the bonuses and tuition payoff for others-they leave after 2.5 years (enough time to satisfy the contract). I was given an employer-sponsored scholarship for my Master’s degree. Unfortunately, the job elevation commensurate to my education never occurred. This was in 2010, with 12 years in the system. I have stayed because I believe in what I do. I promoted myself outside the system and have gained respect there. I now have 20 years in service. Retirement is a potential. But I like what I do (not necessarily the job!)
    Employers have to begin with management and administration. The immediate managers have to be educated, experienced and thoughtful to provoke allegiance. I have had 4 managers in 8 years-the current has lasted 5 years-not because HE is good-he just stays and there is no way for employee’s to provide evaluation that is secure. The intermediate administrators have to listen and understand-many have little to no time “in the trenches” and do not hear the real issues their staff face. They are putting in time to get the BIG BUCKS in retirement. Too many patients, too much acuity, lack of respect for the individual nurse…the list is extensive. Many appear to try to make things work-it is smoke. WE ARE TIRED OF HAZY PRETENSE. Give us RESPECT, promote the cohesion in the unit, not singularity in action.

  2. I am a past president of the National Association Health Care Recruitment (NAHCR) formerly the National Association nurse Recr (NANR) and founder and first president of the Greater Cleveland Association Nurse Recr (GCANR).

    NANR was created in the 1970’s to share resources, recruitment techniques, among many other subjects and also became an informal employee reference checking. Director of Nurses discovered us on a local basis and did not hesitate to call us for the inside scoop on a prospective employee. By being honest and not adhering to hospital policy of just confirming dates of employment we eliminated bringing sub standard nurses into our facilties. By developing a good screening process our retention rate increased, no longer was our core staff forced to work with the undesirable that used to slip by. And for the myth of being sued successfully for giving a poor reference is just that a myth. You may be sued but by having documented facts you will prevail. I had an old school VP of nursing, an old maid very prim and proper who startled meby saying, Lew, just always remember good documentation will save your ass every time and will also protect us as the employer. I became a documentation freak from that moment on, lol. About 15 years later I was sued and the hospital but after a 10 day, quarter million trial, televised we were exonerated by a jury, good documentation was the key.

    On the local level we realized we were taking from one to staff the other. In addition to our own recruitment material we developed a local hospital directory, highlighting the resouces of our city . Smaller hospitals could not always afford the expense of attending recruiment event but if they bought space in our directory their information would also be given out at the event. This way, instead of taking from one to supply an other we used that directory to highlight the community to bring nurses into our city. It was a success.

    Read with amusement the gimmicks that are resurfacing. 40 years ago maybe a little less hospitals in Iowa were offering cars for the night shift employees. Shift differential rose dramatically. Discount meals and generous tuition assistance surfaced. We paid 5k to any staff member who referred a nurse that was hired. That assisted retention since you had to remain employed to collect and the new employee had to stay a prescribed length in order to collect. We established various pay scales based on experience. The highest level I could bring someone on board was a 3 year rate but to assist with retention we had longevity pay rates. These rates were exclusive to our staff, no one was hired at those rates, retention improved. In the era of a crushing shortage the turnover rate went from 80% to 30%, allowing us to reallocate savings to our staff. In addition our residents and medical staff were warned that our nurses were not to be abused. Some just scoffed, like, yeah what are you going to do? That stopped when terminations began with non renewals of contracts. Abuse of our nurses was not tolerated, no matter who you were on the medical staff. Sadly due to the economic environment in the 90’s the hospital closed. I was asked to come out of retirement to conduct the nursing staff exit interviews. It was a tearful experience for all as I was the first and then their last interview to nurses I had hired some 20 years earlier a tribute to our joint efforts on retention and the value we placed on nurses who stayed with us.

    Now I see another shortage and all the dangers associated. It is going to again take a monumental effort to alleviate what will be a future crisis. And nurses who work alone with 8 to 10 patients and no aide are just plain dumb. There is absolutely no way you can give good nursing care with out a support staff of your own. The all RN staff did not in my estimation offer an increase in the level of nursing care. I only worked without an aide or LPN once and refused all assignments without one. No I wasn’t terminated and the addition of a minimum wage CNA made a world of difference. And by adding staff we increased our future by encouraging them to use their CNA as a stepping stone to a career in nursing. We did all we could to assist, modifying shift times and generous tuition assistance programs. Because of programs like some mentioned I was able to utilize and had a 45 year career as an RN, that started out as an aide. I also need to acknowledge the role of our local NLN. They came to our group and requested our assistance in developing material to attract students into a nursing career. They started with grade schoolers by
    developing a comic book on all about a career in nursing, kids loved it.

    In closing don’t forget you have the power to change your working environment. A hospital is not really known for its medical staff but for the nursing care provided. I was on life support for 10 days and it was the excellent nursing care at Baptist in Little Rock that enabled me to live without any restrictions. I only saw docs perhaps a minute a day wheras if they thought I coughed wrong they, the nurses flooded the room.

    Nursing was the best career choice for me, the rewards are non replacable. It’s hard work but so rewarding.

  3. Unfortunately hiring personnel still discriminate. Men/Women , Blacks /Whites. Their pay brackets most often reflects the above rather than good old EXPERIENCE…so guess what the minute this becomes public knowledge, nurses will look for a way out. Making retention a thing of the past. Yes better/close to equal pay , improved work condition will be a big plus.

  4. General public doesn’t know what nurses do in this new nursing world w/ technology. The governing nurse agencies need to get a clear path to learning, reestablish wages & rights and yes, reduce hours. Paying off school debt would get great but won’t happen. Think that needs to come from givernmental level. We save lives, community service, so forgive my debt. I don’t make enough as it is. None of us do


  6. I know that it is important to recruit new nurses, but I think that many hospitals do very little to retain their current staff–So much money is spent to recruit and for bonuses for those new nurses- I think that some of that money should be used to improve retention of nurses–It is like a slap in the face to be the one’s to train and adjust your work life for new employees so that they can get the experiences they need in order to get through the orientation process and at the same time they are earning bonuses and are getting other benefits for hiring on–Often after new employees reach their 1 or 2 years needed to complete their contracts they move on to a new hospital to repeat the process–How about offering your current staff improved insurance benefits–increased vacation time–money bonuses–These things matter for your experienced nurses. It’s no wonder that we are losing our experienced nurses because they can only take so much before they call it quits!

    • Very well said, I think this is an issue everywhere. Eager to hire the new but nothing to retain the experienced. I just don’t understand it. I’ve been saying this for years at the hospital I work at, that there should be incentives and bonuses for the experienced nurses.

    • This makes so much sense! Employers giving back to those that have helped their hospitals what they are now- experienced Nurses who have stayed.

  7. I agree totally. As a nurse of 25 years, I have not stayed at a job longer than a couple of years. I have received a $10K sign on bonus and I made it 6 months. Be wary when they through that kind of money at you. Plus, you only get about 60% after taxes. Incentives such as better staffing, wages, and continuing education are key to loyalty.

  8. More hospitals should be doing this. I will be more interested in loan forgiveness since I have accumulated $99,000 in student’s loans like many others.

  9. This is very hard to believe. In my experience as an aging nurse with 25 yrs experience, I see hospitals getting rid of their higher paid seniority nurses to replace them with low paid graduates. This was the focus of one of yoir last articles I responded to. So the two articles are in conflict with each other.
    I fully agree with the fact that a better more manageable work day would be the solution. Chaos and the frantic pace day after day is poisoning this career. The constant understaffing of nursing assistants as well as nurses is in my opinion just another extension of the problem of our “for profit” healthcare-system.
    I believe this is another sensationalized idea that is not really playing out as reported. This reminds me of the early 2000’s when the news was reporting daily on all the patients that were being killed by nurses mistakes (crazy stuff like oral medications given IV or tube feedings hooked up to IV lines). These rare stories sent fear and hysteria through the public and caused so much mistrust that it damaged the confidence you must have in the nurse/patient relationship.
    This story by CNN of the supposed great benefits that nurses get only makes us look like “we’ve got it made” when in reality this is not true at all. We are for the most part payed well, but more and more people are forgetting we are professionals with an incredible amount of responsibility, demands and a work environment that makes our patient care at most times almost impossible. Until we solve these core problems with our work environment we will never be able to fix the nursing shortage. Not to mention how hard it is to get into nursing school along with the shortage of professors. This could be the focus a whole other article worthy of printing. Healthcare is complicated!!!

    • I totally agree your comments. I also note that hospitals are getting rid or senior nurses to hire younger less experienced ones. In addition I have personally noted that the work ethic is different between the baby boomers who desire job stability, and X’er and millennials. On another note, nurses are not valued and safe nurse patient ratio in non-existent.

  10. Burnout is what also contributes to nursing shortages. As others have already commented here, better nurse/patient ratios would go a long way to establish loyalty and job satisfaction. For patient safety and nursing effectiveness, nurses should not spend their days running at break-neck speed, but rather function at a reasonable pace providing the thorough compassionate care patient’s expect. The perks mentioned should be part of the package too — free meals, and a decent relaxation break room (and be allowed to actually get deserved and legally required breaks, rather than management’s demands and attitude that we don’t deserve breaks “because we’re too busy’).

  11. I agree 100%. Word of mouth is a bigger advertisement and recruiter then any ad you could pay for. They need to take a page from virgin airlines. Happy employees=happy clients. Hospitals could save millions if they invested the money in the proper places. For once they should consult the people that actually do the work. Every thing looks good on paper. Talk to the worker

  12. I think that if there is a contract that goes along with the perks, like the person needs to fulfill a time (1 year or so) and hour per pay commitment (full time, part-time, etc.), then I think it would be safer for the institution to offer perks. I also feel that the relationships between the staff and the administration is important. Respect is a 2 way street and it should be put into practice. The tuition reimbursement is a must as well. Most nurses do not know anything about how to behave in a business environment and healthcare is a business. The on boarding process is very important and should not be hurried or vague. Meaning, expectations should be made clear up front prior to signing any contract. So many of the millennial’s don’t even have appropriate communication skills and have not been expected to be accountable for their actions or lack of. They need to basically learn to be adults. Sorry to say.

  13. Speaking for the recruitment issue alone., Personally, I believe the PERKS are nice, but it wont help to recruit unless you have a nurse wanting to go to that area anyway, not a “real” nurse who feels the mission is to care for patients.
    Also, what shortage? Apparently the shortage is not because there aren’t enough nurses, rather, employers want MORE from their nurses than just experience. They want degrees. Safe and effective Pt care doesn’t come because of a degree. Higher education(BSN,MSN) is great for management. But if you’re looking for someone to provide safe and effective care to patients, look for the ASN who has experience in wanting to care. Where is the shortage? Management or patient care?

  14. I have said for YEARS, to do away with the ‘sign on bonus’ and use that money to REWARD nurses for their loyalty! Reward hard working seasoned nurses by giving better nurse/patient ratios, WIN/WIN for nurses, PATIENTS AND the hospital, because in the long run, happy nurses make happy/SAFE patients = increased revenue for the hospital. Hmmmm, I’m no genius and I figured that out YEARS ago!

    • Mary Alicia, you said a mouthful. Loyalty in nursing is non-existent and providing sign on bonuses to the novice nurses while ignoring the life time commitment of loyal seasoned experienced nurses, only metastizes the greed factor at the expense of nurse loyalty, budget considerations, and most important … patient safety. Nurse/Patient ratios have been an on going problem for as long as I have been a new BSN grad more than twenty years ago. I fervently wish that hospital business types would recognize how much money and time is spent on recruitment and retention. Not to mention all the wasted money and time when a nurse walks after a year or less. Orientation is not cheap and it is very costly in time as well. Also I would agree that if a hospital were to offer loan forgiveness as an incentive for every year you work for them, well … now you’re talkin’ my language. Where do I sign?

  15. Nurse to patient ratio has been an on-going battle for years. I’m certain that hospitals could see the shortage of nurses coming for decades. Naturally, everyone now is expected to meet the BSN requirement which slows the shortage even more. Who really wants this anymore?

    As an RN with 30 years of experience I will keep my IV Home Infusion position all to myself. My area of nursing takes years of experience. It is about time I’ve had some flexibility in my work. No new graduates are out in the field of infusions. Experienced nurses without multiple years of IV Therapy are left out yet care for patients in the home setting is rapidly growing due to the high cost of hospital care.
    This is a political problem now in the U.S. The patient comes last unless there are big insurance policies to pay the hospital tab.

    Change cam be great but RN’s in our workforce are being asked to perform miracles when the staffing is very low.

    Been there, done that! No more of over-working for me.

    • Judith your comments are likewise very true. It seems so terrible these days where it is looking like the most important patient is the next one … as if we were selling popcorn at a ball game.

  16. Sign on bonus, moving allowance and reasonable patient ratios all make sense. But remember not to Snub those of us that have put in the years and experience. Paying experienced nurses a reasonable compensation for years of experience may keep us in the work force longer.
    I am healthy and 63 and I want to be able to work in a healthy environment for many more years.

  17. The hospital environment horrible. Nurses are under tremendous pressure from doctors, supervisors, charting systems, from patients and their relatives. 12 hour shift become 13 or 14 hour long without a full 30 min break for meal. Every day I meat at least one patient (or a patients family) who is condencening, rude, uncooperative, or verbally abusive. I run around like crazy, trying to please people who are expecting 10 star resort service, and holding my own bladder and unable to go to bathroom for hours. This working environment is not healthy and leads to burn out. I am thinking changing my career path… maybe quitting the hospital job and finding job in a medical office or school. I like to help people , but I would also like to take care of my own health

  18. Salary is part, when increasing education requirements, salaries should increase. Physicians make more because of the education time and investment, nurses required to get more education should as well. Additionally, while physicians say, “Pts are here to see doctors, not nurses.” There will always be unsatisfied nurses. These days nurses are on call as well as physicians, why are there physician parking lots next to hospitals and not “on-call” parking lots. Why do physicians get free meals and stocked lounges when nurses don’t?

  19. Patient to nurse ratios definately, as well as promiting specialization of each nurse. Many employers are now demanding float postions that mean a cardiovascular rn floats to OB today and to ortho tommorrow. This is a huge risk to the patients and stressful to nurses. Just employ with integrity and humanity please! Forget the almighty penny a little in your staffing crunch and limited staff resouces.

  20. I think with not touching the benefits to nurses who have been years and make the nurse feel good recognize it from time to time if you’re a good employer do not hurt so much the nurses the retweets.

  21. Create better work environment, for example in FL when you go on break you can’t even close your eyes on your 30 min break, there’s not even a relax place for the nurses to take their break. Show the employee that, you care about them, show them appreciation and give them some perks.

  22. Unfortunately LPN’s aren’t requested in this action of recruiting “nurses”. Some of us are seasoned
    Knowledgeable and could contribute to this shortage. Why is that? We have CEU licensure and same requirement Same as RN’s yet overlooked?

  23. Unfortunately LPN’s aren’t requested in this action of recruiting “nurses”. Some of us are seasoned
    Knowledgeable and contribute to this shortage. Why is that? We have CEU licensure requirements
    Same as RN’s yet overlooked?

  24. The best approach would be to establish patient to nurse ratios that are reasonable and performable, increase salary to retain nurses, and provide extra perks, like free meals, flex-time when needed, and a relaxation break room, so nurses can de-stress before going back to caring for their assigned patients.

    • I strongly agree with Susan. Most days I cannot even take a break in a 12/hr shift. I believe that patient/nurse ratio should include a patients acuity. I have 4-8 patients on any given day without an aide. I just truly believe if they were reasonable I would be able to give exceptional care and never get burned out.


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