CLEVELAND — As hospitals continue to deal with a nationwide nursing shortage, many are offering financial incentives and bonuses to entice nurses to pick up extra shifts and overtime.
Several hospitals in Northeast Ohio are following suit, including Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.
The shortages and incentives are affecting the industry from hospitals to college programs.
“What we're seeing is a burnout and that's not a word that's current. It's been around for a long time,” said Corinne Wheeler, Ph.D., R.N., the interim dean of Cleveland State University’s School of Nursing.
Wheeler said emotional exhaustion from the pandemic and an aging workforce has caused a mass exodus from the nursing profession and its left hospitals scrambling to fill shifts.
“Health care workers are tired, they're frustrated and they are stressed and they are stressed by the fact that about 18% of the nursing workforce, for instance, has left for a variety of reasons–some childcare, some others–and have made an indication that they're unlikely to ever come back,” said Daniel Simon, M.D., the president of University Hospitals' UH Cleveland Medical Center.
At a press conference Thursday, officials from University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic said they’re distributing patients across their systems to balance the load and ease the burden on healthcare workers
Also, like many other hospitals, they’re offering incentives and premium pay for nurses and other in-demand jobs like respiratory therapists.
Those workers at University Hospitals can earn up to $400 for taking on an additional four-hour shift; $800 for an additional eight-hour shift; and $1,200 for an additional 12-hour shift. LPNs and Paramedics can earn $230 (four-hour shift); $460 (eight-hour); $690 (12-hour). That is in addition to their regular schedules.
Cleveland Clinic didn’t specify how much its incentive pay is, but said it varies based on a caregiver’s experience and shift. It also said it has used incentive pay before the pandemic to address staffing challenges as needed.
Currently, healthcare is facing an increased demand for services. This includes both patients with COVID-19 as well as an increase in other patients needing care.
We are continuously evaluating our workforce and looking at solutions to meet our caregiver needs while maintaining the highest quality care for our patients.
Like other health systems, we are experiencing staffing challenges for nursing and other positions and are offering incentive pay as needed, which can vary based on a caregiver’s experience, shift, etc.
“We're going to need to continue to do that for the future because we don't really anticipate that these staffing challenges are going to be ending any time soon,” said Hassan Khouli, M.D. and chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
So how is all of this affecting the next generation of nurses?
“Our enrollment is not down. It's remained steady,” said Wheeler. “And actually pre-COVID, we opened up another cohort of admissions, so we admit three times a year and we don't have any trouble filling our spots. We rarely turn anyone away that meets the criteria for admission.”
Wheeler said she hasn’t seen a decrease in full-time staff either.
“Being an educator in nursing, it is a different calling. And we have faculty here that are great and wonderful with great experience, but they also have a passion of wanting to help nurses enter the workforce,” said Wheeler. “And so that is really driving them more than financially. Being in education, we never were able to compete with the salaries that are being paid in the service area. So that has never been an issue.”
However, she said it's become tougher to hire part-time faculty to help with their clinical units.
“They're working in the workforce. And they're doing it extra on their days off or they're working part time. And many of the institutions are instituting mandatory overtime. And even the managers are having to work on the unit. So what we're seeing is that it's getting more difficult to attract part time clinical faculty to help us meet the need for learning and teaching our students in the clinical areas,” said Wheeler.
The issue isn’t unique to CSU, it's something Wheeler said her colleagues at other Northeast Ohio universities are also seeing.
Versie Johnson-Mallard is the dean of the College of Nursing at Kent State University. She said while nurses are putting in more time at patients’ bedsides, they’re also making time to teach.
“Many of these nurses are willing to give their talent and their time, even during the times that they're exhausted to give back to our nurses and say, ‘Come on, let us mentor you at the bedside to get through this,’” said Johnson-Mallard. “And the students are saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have an amazing time. I'm having more opportunities for hands on and seeing high acuity patients where I may have not had that opportunity pre-COVID.’”
Johnson-Mallard said KSU's nursing program has also not seen a decrease in enrollment and none of her faculty members have resigned to take full-time positions at hospitals.
Full statement from University Hospitals regarding incentive pay:
Not unlike other health systems in Ohio and across the nation, University Hospitals is challenged by the shortage of nurses and other clinical caregivers. At this time, we continue to provide all of our patients with all of the care they need. UH is offering Acute Care Commitment incentives, through January 2, 2022, to support hospital patient care areas that run on a 24/7 schedule. This includes medical surgical units, intensive care, acute inpatient psychiatric care, maternity inpatient care, emergency services and hospital operative services supporting acute care. RNs and respiratory therapists can earn $400 for taking on an additional four-hour shift; $800 for an additional eight-hour shift; and $1,200 for additional 12-hour shift. LPNs and Paramedics can earn $230 (four-hour shift); $460 (eight-hour); $690 (12-hour). This is in addition to their regular schedules.
MetroHealth also released a statement regarding offering incentive pay to healthcare workers:
Last week, we announced a Premium Overtime program for people working in departments with high vacancy rates for Full time and Part time staff.
Since then, frontline managers have advised us to create an incentive program for PRN employees who commit at least 20 hours per week. They view this as necessary for patient care and to not overburden the full-time and part-time staff.
As such, we have created an incentive program for PRNs working in high vacancy departments, and where there is continued need to fill open shifts. The program is effective Sunday, October 17, 2021, until January 8, 2022. To be eligible, PRNs must work 20 hours a week.
The rates vary based on position and hours per pay period.
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