One local hospital is taking a proactive approach to the growing national nurse shortage by offering tuition reimbursement as a perk.
Washington Health System Greene has started a new tuition repayment program for Registered Nurses that can help both new and current RN’s pay off student debt.The program is designed for new hires and existing RN’s of WHS-Washington Hospital and WHS-Greene in exchange for a two-year full or part-time service agreement at WHS-Greene.
“This is a new program being offered exclusively at our WHS Greene location. Although we’ve run programs similar to this in the past, this is the largest incentive we’ve offered to date,” said Barb McCullough, vice president of human resources with Washington Health System.
McCullough said the focus right now is to fill RN positions for the Acute Care and Emergency Departments at WHS–Greene.
Nursing shortage continues to grow
The need for new nurses is not confined to our region.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for registered nurses nationwide is projected to increase significantly over the next decade because of an increase in preventive care, growing rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity and the rising healthcare service needs of the baby-boom population.
The Bureau also projected the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.
“There are a number of factors driving the demand for skilled healthcare employees,” McCullough said. “For one, the population is aging, which is leading to a greater demand for healthcare services at the same time that experienced staff members are retiring. It is estimated that two-thirds of medical facilities are already facing a nursing shortage or expect one in the next three years.”
Adding to the problem is the fact nursing schools across the United States can’t expand fast enough to meet the rising demand. Nearly half of RNs will reach retirement age this year while the need for their services is rising. Some research shows nearly one million RNs may retire by the year 2030.
It’s understandable why a survey of US hospital executives shows talent shortage as the number one top of mind.
The growing need and short supply means healthcare institutions are now forced to find new ways to attract and retain talent. For nurses and nursing students, it’s great news since employers are vying for their services.
Some hospitals have begun offering added benefits such as stipends in addition to regular pay, signing bonuses and relocation assistance for those who take jobs in under-served areas and even employer-provided loans that are forgiven after individuals who fulfill employment commitments. With student loan debt becoming an increasingly burdensome issue, student loan repayment benefits are becoming a more frequent offering from hospital employers.
“Facilities are being forced to get creative with attracting qualified candidates from the shrinking pool of applicants,” McCullough said. “Human resource departments are looking into incentives such as more flexible schedules, better benefit packages, debt reimbursement programs, employer provided loans, signing bonuses and relocation assistance, just to name a few.”
Who is eligible
For local nurses in Washington and Greene Counties, the opportunity for tuition repayment could add up to an additional $30,000 over six years.
“Qualifying individuals include any existing WHS-Washington or WHS-Greene RN’s or new hire WHS-Greene RN’s that are willing to commit to a two-year full- or part-time service agreement at WHS-Greene,” McCullough said. “Additionally, RN’s must be able to provide proof of outstanding student loan debt.”
After presenting that, WHS Greene will pay up to $10,000 in return for a two-year full or part-time service agreement. The employee may reapply each year for an additional $10,000 loan repayment – or the full amount of outstanding debt if under $10,000 – in return for an additional two-year full- or part-time service agreement at WHS-Greene. Each Registered Nurse may qualify for a total of up to $30,000 in maximum loan repayment in return for six full years of service at WHS-GGreene. Before any payment is made, the RN will be required to sign a legally enforceable promissory note and begin employment at WHS-Greene, if not a current WHS-Greene employee.
To apply for one of the Washington Health System Greene Registered Nurse positions, visit whs.org/careers.