Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare (NYSE: KND) is attempting to draw registered nurses (RN) with cash, offering a $10,000 signing bonus for each of five RN positions in the Louisville area.
The high signing bonus, first reported by Louisville Business First on Nov. 3, is also available to RNs in California, New Mexico, Missouri, Colorado and Georgia, Kindred’s job site indicates. The bonuses for RNs range between $2,000 and $10,000 in multiple markets.
The bonus is one example of how some providers are luring care staff in an increasingly tight labor market, but not all stakeholders see the offering as an advantage.
“Kindred’s Sign-on-Bonus is an investment in our clinicians, and displays a commitment to their career growth and longevity with our organization,” Kindred Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Susan Moss said in an emailed statement to Louisville Business First.
Kindred faces an increasing need for RNs to keep pace with the growth of the health care industry, Moss noted. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show there will be about 1.1 million RN vacancies in the U.S. due to retirements and new growth between 2014 and 2022.
The numbers for RNs are daunting, with demand for nurses projected to increase about 1.5% per year through 2025, according to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Louisville’s health care economy alone will need to fill about 2,500 new RN positions by 2024, data from KentuckianaWorks’ Kentuckiana Occupational Outlook tool showed, according to Louisville Business First.
A minimum of an associate’s degree in nursing and active state license is required for all but one of the five positions in Louisville on Kindred’s job website, Louisville Business First noted.
While Kindred touts the bonus as an investment in recruiting, not everyone agrees on the appeal of a signing bonus. In fact, some see it as a red flag and say it isn’t necessarily a means for retention.
“Sign-on bonuses … can be great, but pay attention to retention,” Kimberly Nolet, research manager at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Center for Aging Research and Education, said at the LeadingAge conference last week in New Orleans. “That sign-on bonus is not going to keep them in the long-term, and the message that it often sends is, we’re desperate, and you’re going to come into an organization where we’re desperate for people, and we can’t keep people and that’s why we’re offering a sign-on bonus.”
Providers, however, are in a difficult time, and she does not want to single out any particular company’s strategy for praise or criticism, Nolet said in an email to Home Health Care News. Sign-on bonuses can be a way of mitigating some of the stress around recruitment.
“Signing bonuses can be an effective tool to recruit people in to high-demand jobs, particularly nurses that might have student loans to repay,” she explained in the email. “But we talk to our graduates about also looking at the big picture, so they can stay in a job they love.”
Building a positive work environment for nurses, with a strong orientation program, supportive colleagues, nurse-led quality improvement initiatives and professional development opportunities, will also help in hiring and retaining nurses, she said.
Mark Heaney, Principal at DTRT Health Advisors and former president and CEO of Addus HomeCare (Nasdaq: ADUS), echoes this assessment.
“The nurses that work in the industry wouldn’t see it as a red flag as much as they see it as a recruitment tool,” he told HHCN.
Though Kindred’s bonus is “generous,” it’s not unheard of for RN therapists, for instance, Heaney noted.
“Organizations tend to use it market to market, depending on the nurse therapist professionals that they seek,” he added.
Signing bonuses can also indicate to applicants that a company is successful and growing faster than its ability to recruit, Heaney said. But the focus should not be on using signing bonuses as a long-term solution to the high demand for RNs, he emphasized.
“If I have a great recruitment program, focused on making this the best place to work for the employee, I don’t have to do signing bonuses,” he explained.
Kindred also noted the importance of employee engagement in recruiting, for instance by offering on-the-spot, drop-in interviews without the need for a resume or appointment schedule.
“Don’t forget some of the low-tech stuff, because that works, too,” Kindred Senior Vice President of Human Resources Jeff Jasnoff said at a recent HR conference in Chicago.
Written by Maggie Flynn