Are employers missing the boat on nursing benefits?

Although most employers offer nurses medical, dental and 401K benefits, far fewer offer to pay for nursing school tuition or continuing education, according to our Salary Research Report.

That might be a mistake on employers’ parts, according our survey, reflecting responses from 4,520 RNs from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The survey found especially millennial and Generation X nurses plan to use education to boost their salary potential. Nearly three-quarters of the nurses surveyed ranked salary as the No. 1 aspect of job satisfaction.

In fact, 79% of millennial nurses, ages 19 to 35, and 57% of Generation X nurses, ages 36 to 56, indicated they looked to education to increase salary potential. That’s compared to less than a quarter of baby boomers, who in this survey were 57 to 74 years old.

Given those findings, one of the recommended recruitment and retention strategies is employers should consider offering tuition reimbursement and paid or reimbursed continuing education.

Offering nurses salary and benefit packages that not only attract but also retain them is important, especially considering that nurses are by no means tethered to their jobs. The survey found 65% of nurses are open to changing employers and 14% of nurses surveyed said they are considering leaving the profession entirely.

The value of nursing benefits

Nurses ranked benefits as the second most important indicator of job satisfaction, with 15% of those surveyed saying it was the No. 1 reason they’re satisfied or dissatisfied at work.

The survey offers a snapshot of what employers are offering nurses today, in the way of benefits:

  • Eight in 10 nurses receive medical, dental and 401K benefits
  • 73% get life insurance
  • More than half have short- and long-term disability coverage
  • Nearly 50% of those surveyed reported receiving tuition reimbursement
  • 39% received continuing education reimbursement
  • A quarter get bonuses
  • 8% get profit sharing

To stay competitive nurses’ employers should conduct benefit reviews to ensure that nursing benefits are in line with white collar employees of similar educational backgrounds, according to Ginger C. Hanson, PhD, assistant professor, Community Public Health Nursing, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Baltimore, Md.

“Keeping experienced nurses at the bedside will require an investment in nurses and the work they do,” Hanson said. “Nurse satisfaction with pay and benefits is important not just so hospitals can retain experienced staff but to prevent nursing strikes which can be costly to hospitals and risky for patients, affecting mortality rates and risk for readmission.”

Need for benefits can vary according to where a nurse is in his or her life, according to Joanne Spetz, PhD, professor of the Institute of Health Policy Studies, department of family and community medicine, School of Nursing at University of California, San Francisco.

“If a person is married or partnered with somebody who has good benefits, then benefits might be a little less important to them,” Spetz said. “Pay definitely matters.”

Spetz agreed that a growing share of younger nurses put high value on education benefits.

“That may be because there’s a growing emphasis and message to entering nurses, regardless of what their initial education was, that continuing their education is a really important thing to do for their personal and professional development,” Spetz said.

Benefits can even improve retention

Employers offering tuition and continuing education reimbursement should align those benefits with employment opportunities, like clinical ladders, according to Michele Pedulla, DNP, ARNP, CPNP, assistant chair for graduate programs at Purdue Global and a practicing pediatric nurse practitioner.

“I was a pediatric oncology nurse and received my certification as an oncology nurse, which was supported by my unit,” Pedulla said. “We wanted a certain number of our nurses to have that certification, so that was our goal as a unit. We tried to make it so we had team goals as well as individual and hospital goals.”

That approach helped with unit retention, according to Pedulla.

Employers and nurses should also keep in mind that nurses might not realize the true value of benefit packages during the recruitment process, according to Theresa Mazzaro, RN, CHCR, senior talent acquisition specialist, Suburban Hospital of Johns Hopkins Medicine and a member of the board of directors of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment.

“You can go to work for an organization that pays you really well, but they might be located in a city where you have to pay for parking,” Mazzaro said. “That’s a lot of money at the end of the day if you have to pay for parking or commute.”

Research has shown there are other things besides money and benefits that make nurses want to stay in or leave their jobs, according to Hanson.

Some of those factors — nurses are more satisfied when they feel they have the time and resources to provide high-quality care and can receive the gratitude of their patients.

They are also more satisfied when they have managerial support, interpersonal relationships among other nurses and physicians, a collaborative work environment and comfortable workloads, she said.

Download our Nursing Salary Research Report today!

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