How 4 hospitals are retaining nurses and reducing turnover costs with student financial assistance

Amid the pandemic and an unprecedented shortage of nurses, hospital leaders across the country are looking for innovative ways to recruit and retain nurses and other health workers. While some hospitals have increased signing bonuses and salaries, others are taking a different approach, such as paying off student loans and paying back tuition fees.

According to Nerdwallet, those with a nursing degree have an average of $ 19,928 in debt; those with a bachelor’s degree in nursing have an average of $ 23,711 in debt; and those with a master’s degree in nursing have an average of $ 47,321 in debt.

At least 45 hospitals across the United States offer some form of tuition reimbursement for staff, according to

Becker compiled four programs and talked to two leaders about what they do to help nurses with student loans and tuition, and how these nurses help them in return.

Four hospital programs:

This fall, based in New Lenox, Ill. Silver Cross Hospital and in Romeoville, Ill. Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Sciences in partnership provide student loan repayment assistance. Reimbursement can be up to $ 27,000 for Lewis nursing graduates who pursue nursing careers at Silver Cross after graduation. The payments over four years will be made directly to the students to repay the loans.

To qualify for the program, nurses must obtain their BSN degree from Lewis University; pass the national licensing exam; engage in a nursing career at Silver Cross for at least four years; and participate in the Silver Cross Student Nursing Assistant Program, do a clinical rotation at the hospital, or work in a paid summer job at Silver Cross.

In Mississippi, Gulfport Memorial Hospital provides registered nurses working in long-term care facilities with student loan repayments of up to $ 20,000 on two-year contracts. The incentive is in addition to other financial benefits such as tuition reimbursement, salary incentives, hourly rate increases and seasonal pay.

“As the preeminent Mississippi Gulf Coast healthcare system, Memorial realizes that in order to recruit, retain and develop the best talent, our healthcare system must offer a competitive total rewards package in order to maintain our position as the best. in the region, ”Myron McCoo, vice president of human resources at Memorial, said in a statement to Herald of the Sun.

“After speaking with nurses who worked at the bedside during the pandemic, we realized that they weren’t just interested in pay,” Mr McCoo told the Herald. “Many of our nurses have student loans, so we’re introducing a new benefit for RNs working at bedside and in long-term care. “

On the other side of the nation Seattle Children’s Hospital has tripled its investment in its tuition assistance program for fiscal year 2022 from $ 225,000 to $ 1 million, said Wendy Price, director of workforce development and planning of the hospital. Becker’s.

Tuition assistance recipients have a 7 percent higher retention rate, at an estimated savings of $ 420,000 over five years, Ms. Price said. By tripling the number of recipients, the cost savings will also increase. Beneficiaries of the program are also accessing new jobs within Seattle Children’s at a rate 15% higher than its general workforce, promoting career advancement and retention, Ms. Price explained.

Nursing education is a priority at Seattle for kids, with 48% of FY2022 recipients pursuing nursing degrees. Sixty-five percent of grantees use it to pursue a new job or career at Seattle Children’s, and 31 percent of FY2022 grantees are from under-represented backgrounds as defined by the National Institutes of Health .

The organization also invested $ 100,000 in the Liz Thomas Legacy Scholarship, a $ 5,000 scholarship for nursing students under-represented in the community.

West Virginia University Medicine in Morgantown offers three programs to help employees pay for their education: Employee Tuition Reimbursement, Dependents Tuition Reimbursement, and most recently, Student Loan Repayment.

Through the Employee Tuition Reimbursement Program, full-time employees with one or more years of service can receive up to $ 3,000 in tuition reimbursement at any school of their choice, said Leeann Kaminsky, Director of Human Resources. Those with five or more years of service can receive up to 100% tuition reimbursement.

The hospital also provides funds for the children of the employees. Dependents of employees with three or more years of service can receive up to 100 percent of the tuition fee if they attend the University of West Virginia. If they attend another university, they may receive reimbursement at a lower rate.

These two programs have been in existence since 2019.

The student loan repayment program began this summer and provides full-time staff after 90 days of employment with $ 100 per month for loans. For nurses, there is an enhanced student loan assistance benefit that pays off $ 450 per month in student loans. In return, they provide a two-year commitment to the hospital.

There is a retention rate of about 94 percent of those who participate in these programs, Ms. Kaminsky said.

In total, the three programs cost the hospital about $ 3.2 million per year, but save the hospital about $ 3.8 million per year in revenue costs, Ms. Kaminsky.

“We want to be an employer of choice. We want people to come and work with us and stay for a very long time,” Ms. Kaminsky said. “And that’s why we try to have a range of benefits and programs to offer to employees as soon as they enter organizations like the student loan system, so if you’re just graduating from college, we can help you. help pay off your debt sooner.

“If you want to go back to school and continue your education, we can help you support that. And then, not only that, when you’re starting a family and having kids and you have dependents who want to. go to school, we can It’s a full lifecycle of benefits that we can offer our employees at different stages of their lives. ”

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