Can ASCs keep up with $20K health system bonuses, other incentives for top talent?

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Many physicians and medical staff stressed out by the COVID-19 pandemic have left the field, presenting a staff recruitment and retention challenge for all healthcare providers. Health systems are flexing their financial strength to entice top talent.

"It is really difficult to hire and keep staff," said James Zenman, PhD, CEO of the Cardiac and Vascular Institute in Gainesville, Fla. "This pandemic has left many facilities short of talented help. We have to pull out all of the stops to ensure that we keep our good people and develop a system to ensure that they are rewarded appropriately."

Large health systems are offering thousands in appreciation bonuses and sign-on bonuses to retain the staff they have and recruit more.

Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor gave $1,500 bonuses to 29,000 faculty and staff members to thank them for their work in the last year, according to a May 26 statement from the system. Huntsville (Ala.) Hospital Health System also announced in May it would give 15,000 full time employees a $1,000 pandemic bonus later this summer.

Dallas, Texas-based Baylor Scott & White gave 33,402 managers and staff $500 appreciation bonuses in May as well.

Health systems are offering even heftier sign-on bonuses to attract new nurses and staff members. During a May 11 hiring event, Baptist Health System in San Antonio offered new nurses and patient care and lab associates up to $20,000 signing bonuses in addition to relocation assistance.

Hershey, Pa.-based Penn State Health also upped the ante to quickly hire 100 nurses for its Hampden Medical Center in Enola, Pa., scheduled to open in October, according to Penn Live. The system is looking for registered nurses with at least six months of experience and offering $15,000 sign-on bonuses, improved pay for some shifts and more time off to attract them.

ASCs aiming to expand their teams are having trouble competing.

"The stress of the pandemic has affected many staff members to seek different positions," said Barbara Pederson, RN, who is the center director for the Endoscopic Surgical Center of Maryland in Silver Spring. "The hospitals are paying nurses extremely high salaries with contract employment, which often includes a sign-on bonus. ASCs cannot match what the hospitals are offering."

Surgery centers may be able to offer other perks for nurses, especially those who became disenchanted with hospital employment over the last year after working long hours and getting little flex time.

"We're hoping they switch over from the hospital and come to the ASC," said Brian Bizub, CEO of Raleigh (N.C.) Orthopaedic Clinic.

Mr. Bizub said he plans to overstaff his ASCs in anticipation of growth to avoid overworking the staff and maintain high-quality care. With more experienced nurses now on board, he said he sees opportunities for early career nurses to fit on the team.

"In the past, we were concerned about having the right staff as we opened the ASCs. We really looked primarily at hospital nurses who worked in the operating room, post-anesthesia care unit, or telemetry unit, because we were concerned with the risks," he said. "Now since we have our base, we have the opportunity to bring newer nurses in and train them a little differently."

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