Despite the nursing shortage, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in Yakima, Washington, has no problem attracting a steady steam of job candidates.
“We’ve never offered nurses a sign-on bonus,” says Kathy Franz, the hospital’s director of human resources. “Sign-on bonuses typically keep nurses in their jobs for two years. Our goal is to attract candidates who want to work here for other reasons.”
Among those reasons are a supportive corporate culture, flexible shifts, numerous opportunities for upward mobility and benefits that include a matching 401k, onsite child care and tuition reimbursement.
Beyond Signing Bonuses
Realizing that sign-on bonuses don’t always keep nurses in the acute-care setting, many hospitals, including Yakima, are offering creative perks to recruit new nurses and retain their existing staff. These perks include flexible scheduling, professional development, and programs designed to empower nurses and improve the hospital’s corporate culture.
“We also offer all of the nurses the same pay structure,” Franz says. “They receive the same compensation whether they are working in home health, the hospital or the clinics.”
In 2006, Yakima began offering “Into the Blue,” a four-day program, to all employees. Designed by the Pacific Institute, a training and consulting company, the program aims to maximize the spirit of leadership in every individual.
“The program essentially teaches employees how to better understand one another’s personalities and temperaments and how to foster healthy relationships,” says Jennifer Tate, Yakima’s director of organizational health and wellness. “It shows how to remove self-imposed limits to achieve your goals.”
Tate says more than 1,800 employees have gone through the program and have reported tremendous success.
“I’ve heard story after story of how this program has changed our employees’ lives both personally and professionally,” Tate says. “There was one woman who always wanted to learn how to scuba dive, and this course motivated her to do so at the age of 60. Another man closed the mortgage on his home after finishing the program.”
The course complements Yakima’s already strong corporate culture, Tate says.
“Our CEO sends all of our 2,000 employees a card on their birthday,” she says. “On Christmas, he and the VP of nursing hand out flowers to all the nurses working that day.”
While lucrative sign-on bonuses can initially attract nurses, Tate believes that a positive working environment is more important when it comes to retaining staff.
“We all spend a lot of time at work,” she says. “It’s important to be someplace where you feel appreciated and are able to make a difference.”
Onsite Degree Programs
At Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California, nurses enjoy working in an academic medical center that fosters innovation and puts them on the forefront of cutting-edge research.
Since the medical center is adjacent to Stanford University, nurses enjoy a number of university perks in addition to their standard employment benefits. The Work/Life office helps nurses identify childcare options and offers guidance on elder-care responsibilities and adoption assistance.
Packard also promotes further education by offering onsite master’s- and bachelor’s-degree programs for nurses, tuition reimbursement, scholarships and flexible scheduling to support nurses who want to continue their education.
The hospital introduced a shared governance model in 2006, in which clinical nurses have a voice in determining nursing practice, standards and quality of care.
Making Life Easier
Some hospitals have also started offering more work/life balance options to their nurses.
“We offer a variety of part-time shifts and eight- and 12-hour shifts to better accommodate [nurses’] needs,” says Sharron Hadick, RN, BSN, MPA, nurse recruitment program manager for Packard.
At Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center, employees can tap free concierge services for help with dinner reservations, car repairs, mailing packages, catering and event planning, picking up and dropping off dry cleaning, and lawn and garden care. The organization offers the concierge services to all of its 3,000 employees and 300 physicians as a gesture of appreciation.
“If you want to attend a dinner and play in San Francisco after work, the concierge service can make your reservations,” says Kathy Sommese, a clinical nurse supervisor for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.
Sommese has also taken advantage of the employee health-club membership and tuition benefits. She is currently pursuing her BSN in an online degree program and regularly works out at a fitness club, paying a discounted rate.
“We also get discounted tickets to a number of local attractions,” Sommese says. “I bought tickets to Disneyland at a substantial discount and took my sons there last summer.”