Hospitals offering sign-on bonuses to hire nurses in Southwest Florida

Early on in the pandemic, nurses were let go as hospitals were forced to scale back on what treatment and surgeries they could perform.

Now there’s a desperate need to bring those nurses back and area hospitals are hoping large sign-on checks will work.

Nurses were burned out and exhausted and afraid they could easily become infected with COVID-19, so it’s no surprise lots of them quit during the pandemic.

Knowing what they know, would more money convince them to return?

“That’s it. I don’t want to get exposed. I don’t want to expose my children, my grandchildren,” said Christina Smith, a hospice nurse.

During the height of the pandemic, that’s what Smith, who is also a mom, heard from her nurse friends.

“In the beginning, because it was so scary, I feel that we were kind of, we were heroes at that time,” Smith said. “They were like, ‘Oh, you’re a nurse, you’re a rock star,’ we got free coffee. And you know, we were treated really well. But then the tables turned.”

Some were laid off, others left on their own.

“We work in a field that it doesn’t matter what we’re going through,” said Yessika Lopez, a medical assistant in nursing school.

Now hospital systems in Southwest Florida are paying big bucks in bonuses to get these nurses back.

At NCH, a nurse can get between $500 to $20,000 for signing on.

At Lee Health, nurses can get more than $9,000 in moving expenses.

Physicians Regional Healthcare System is offering multiple incentives, including help with tuition.

Lopez, who is a new mom and a nursing student, said she will put the money to good use.

“He’s only 15 months and I barely spend time with him. He’s usually with my mom. But I’m just doing this for him,” Lopez said.

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For information on job opportunities at NCH visit here.

For information on nursing jobs at LeeHealth, visit here.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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