Although most people open the job ads only to be faced by a pretty grim prospect, nurses have the advantage of being in one of the most in-demand careers on the market. In fact, in addition to the regular advertisements for open positions, you might even find employment ads that promise recruitment or employment bonuses—and often to the tune of thousands of dollars.
For new graduates and experienced professionals, the appeal of signing on for employment with a $5,000 or $10,000 check already in hand is strong. However, before you agree to work for any health care corporation, it’s important to check the fine print and understand the employment situation. After all, there’s a reason these companies are short on staff, and bonuses almost always come with contractual obligations, so you can expect to be held to the contract for the duration of your term.
Here are a few questions to answer before you make a decision:
Is the bonus split or spread out over time? In many cases, a bonus will be split in half or divided into graduated increments (for example, 10 percent up front and the remaining 30 percent every three months). This is typically done to ensure that you don’t take the bonus, work your contractual time, and leave the organization hanging. However, you want to be sure that there aren’t other stipulations that will prevent you from getting your money.
If I leave the position, do I have to pay the bonus back? Read carefully to determine how long you are obligated to stay at the organization without getting a penalty. A $3,000 bonus might look appealing…until you learn you have to stay in the job for the next five years or risk paying it back.
Is compensation lower to make up for it? Even with a generous sign-on bonus, the other aspects of the job should be comparable to market standards. Rates of pay, retirement packages, insurance and health benefits, time off, overtime…none of them should be cut back or reduced to make up for the bonus. A bonus is meant to go on top of everything else, not in place of it.
What is the employer like, bonus or not? Look into the employer as you would any organization with which you’re signing a contract. Talk to existing employees, check the level of patient care, and spend some time doing your research. The point of a sign-on nursing bonus is to recruit top talent, but top talent should also want to sign on there because it is a good place to work.
Nursing students in a position to consider a sign-on bonus are in a good position because they have choices. You can choose to work for a large hospital, a small clinic, or a high-need office in an urban center. You can work part-time, full-time, or as a travel nurse. And as is the case with any choice, it’s important to look into all the aspects and make the decision that will suit you best for the long term.