Hospitals offer incentives to nursing staff during COVID. to keep

Hospitals on the Mississippi coast step up efforts to retain existing nursing staff as the state experiences critical staff shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lucrative travel nursing contracts, COVID-19 fatigue, or more competitive salaries outside of Mississippi are causing local nurses to leave the area in droves, leading to experimental retention efforts in South Mississippi.

Memorial Hospital in Gulfport recently introduced a student loan repayment option for nurses, and the Singing River Health System plans to offer nurses an option to receive their paychecks “on demand” or as soon as they turn a New Year’s shift.

The Pascagoula-based hospital system recently increased wages and overtime for staff and said they are working on introducing some other ways to retain their nurses.

“We just want to make sure people realize that we’re working very hard on it,” said Jessica Lewis, Singing River’s executive director of human resources.

Merit Health in Biloxi said it offered existing employees “enjoyable perks and experiences with an emphasis on creating a positive and engaging culture,” but unspecified what incentive programs they offer.

“We continue to work with hospitals across the country to find ways to recruit and retain healthcare professionals in these unprecedented times,” said Amy Bowman, Merit’s marketing manager.

The Ochsner Health System did not respond to the Sun Herald’s request for plans to host nurses.

Incentives to retain nurses differ from the broader recruitment incentives these hospitals offer potential nurses. Existing staff will not receive scholarships, as new nurses and nurses might receive entry bonuses in the same health systems.

Singing River offers up to $ 15,000 in sign up bonuses, $ 2,000 travel incentives, flexible scheduling, and other perks for new nurses. Memorial offers, among other things, salary incentives of up to $ 10,000 for new nurses, salary incentives for short-term contracts, and 12-week temporary assignments for up to $ 80 an hour.

Singing River Executive Director of Human Resources Jessica Lewis poses for a portrait in Singing River Gulfport on Wednesday October 27, 2021. Hannah Ruhoff [email protected]

Merit also offers up to $ 10,000 new nurse sign up bonus and $ 2,500 referral bonuses. For an emergency room nurse, Merit is offering $ 16,000 full-time day shift sign-up bonuses with $ 5,000 referral bonuses.

Former memorial nurse speaks out

Dale Peoples, a Wiggins nurse, took a job in hospital administration during one of the MS Coast’s deadly waves of COVID when more lucrative opportunities arose. He had previously been a nurse in the emergency room on the Memorial Hospital campus in Stone County.

“An opportunity came at the right time and I would never have thought of it before because I loved working in the emergency room. But that opportunity came up and it was too much to miss, so I got a job in the hospital administration, ”he said.

The people’s experience isn’t unique – the opportunities to leave nursing in Mississippi, a state with mostly nonprofit health systems, for better-paying positions are hot. And before leaving the hospital bed, Peoples said he was able to collect large amounts of overtime pay and other incentives for the restraint.

“Memorial Hospital made it competitive to keep its nurses,” said Peoples.

“If you were already working there at Memorial, they had full-time contracts where you had so many extra shifts …

Peoples said he received an hourly boost while in the hospital as well.

Memorial Human Resources Director Tony Alves said nurse retention is a top priority for the health system.

“Our most valuable capital is our employees. To ensure that we continue to provide the very best possible service to our community, we continually invest in our people, ”he said in a statement to the Sun Herald.

The newest program Memorial is offering is the student loan repayment option, which offers inpatient nurses and registered nurses working in long-term care facilities student loan repayment of up to $ 20,000 for two-year contracts.

The hospital also offers financial supplements to current salaries, up to an additional $ 10 per hour, and vacation pay. This program offers a one-time special payment of up to 80 hours of accrued paid days off.

“The appeal of the seasonal premium payment also gives our caregivers the opportunity to earn a higher wage rate to meet increased demands, especially in critical areas of scarcity,” said Alves.

A nurse works on a computer in the intensive care unit at Singing River Health System Hospital in Ocean Springs on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Hannah Ruhoff [email protected]

Increased Benefits for Biloxi, Singing River Nurses

Merit has started offering “Comprehensive Compensation Packages” for nurses, including tuition reimbursement, flexible scheduling and sign-up bonuses.

Singing River has turned down student loan repayment options because they are confident that the federal government will soon introduce forgiveness options.

But Lewis said, in an effort to retain talent, the health system has spent over $ 10 million on incentives and employee retention in the past six months.

This money was mainly spent on overtime pay. Lewis said a normal nurse works 36 hours a week, but if she can take an extra day, Singing River pays an additional US $ 400 to nurses in critical areas like the doctor’s office, emergency room, intensive care unit, ventilation, and birthing and delivery units. Dollars per shift overtime pay.

And in early 2022, Lewis said Singing River will offer “Pay on Demand,” a type of short-term payment option.

“That means if you work today you can actually pick up your paycheck tomorrow when you need it,” said Lewis.

However, the hospital has continued to urge additional support from local and state leaders to address the shortage of care and keep talent on the MS coast while the nursing market remains grueling.

However, health officials continue to emphasize the need for support from state and local executives to attract talent in a breakneck nursing market.

“We are currently working with our state and local leaders to … raise federal funds to be used for the effects of COVID,” said Lewis. “We really hope that if we get this money, we can offer these incentives to our existing employees.

“Right now, the incentive we give our employees to help and pull extra shifts and do extra things really comes to our bottom line as a nonprofit.”

This article and the live event are supported by the Journalism and Public Information Fund, a fund of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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