Even Bonuses of $ 10,000 and More Don’t Reduce the Shortage of “Critical” Nurses in Western Pennsylvania


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Some health officials deem the shortage of nurses in western Pennsylvania “critical,” reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Revue.

The shortage is occurring in a region characterized by a rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce, and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The UPMC and the Allegheny Health Network, both based in Pittsburgh, posted more than 2,200 RN and RN positions online last week, according to the Tribune-Revue. UPMC, the state’s largest employer, offers recruiting bonuses of up to $ 10,000 for registered nurses, while AHN offers up to $ 15,000 for more experienced nurses.

Some personal care homes and assisted living facilities pay up to $ 50 an hour to fill urgent vacancies for unlicensed caregivers, said Margie Zelenak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association. At least two personal care homes told him they had decided to close in recent weeks, with one citing an inability to hire help.

Since May 2020, employment in nursing homes and residential facilities in the six-county area has fallen by 1,100 workers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We’re struggling to hire to fill positions,” said John Dickson, president and CEO of Redstone Presbyterian SeniorCare, based in Greensburg, Pa. Even before the pandemic, Redstone worked through the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania to bring in nurses from the Philippines.

Greensburg-based Excela Health, which operates three hospitals and several outpatient care facilities, plans to implement an international contract for nurses this fall, a spokesperson told the Tribune-Revue.

In 2018, AHN recruited 150 graduate nurses from the Philippines and the Caribbean Islands, who have similar professional standards. Claire Zangerle, DNP, MSN, chief nurse at AHN, said the program, which requires nurses to come with three-year work visas, has been successful with a high retention rate.

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