Offering a Nurse Sign-On Bonus: Pros and Cons for Facilities

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A group of new hires, smiling because they just signed generous nurse sign-on bonuses.

With ongoing staffing shortages impacting the healthcare industry, hiring and retaining nurses remains a challenge for facilities. In an effort to stay ahead of competitors and attract top talent, it’s becoming increasingly common for facilities to offer a nurse sign-on bonus. In fact, almost 20% of nursing jobs now list a sign-on bonus — three times the rate of other types of professional job postings.

If your facility is considering offering sign-on bonuses, you may be wondering whether they actually help with nurse recruitment. We’ll outline the pros and cons of utilizing this incentive to help you properly allocate your financial resources.

What Is a Nurse Sign-On Bonus?

A nursing sign-on bonus is a financial incentive that’s offered in addition to the expected salary or compensation for a role. This is most commonly given as a one-time payment, shortly after nurses begin working in a new position. However, some facilities may also choose to pay a sign-on bonus in installments over a set period of time.

Sign-on bonuses are either listed in job adverts to attract more applicants or offered during the interview and negotiation process to help sway a candidate’s decision. Additionally, the average sign-on bonuses for nurses can depend on various factors, such as:

  • The nursing specialty
  • A nurse’s experience level
  • The current job market
  • The location or state of the facility
  • The difficulty/desirability of the role

What Other Types of Bonuses Can Be Offered to Nurses?

While sign-on bonuses are typically paid as a lump-sum, there are many other types of financial bonuses that can be used to help retain nurses over time. These include:

  • Retention Bonus: This type of bonus is paid after a nurse has stayed at a facility for a set period of time, typically after one or two years. This helps prevent nurses from leaving a position shortly after receiving a sign-on bonus.
  • Performance Bonus: Beyond the length of time that a nurse works at a facility, some bonuses can also be contingent on the nurse meeting specific performance goals. This incentivizes nurses to focus on the quality of the care they deliver.
  • Education Reimbursement: Some facilities offer bonuses that help cover the costs of a nurse’s education. This is most commonly in the form of tuition reimbursement or continuing education credits.
  • Shift Differentials: Facilities often offer higher pay rates for shifts that are less desirable to work, such as holidays, weekends, or nights.
  • Relocation Bonus: When a nurse is required to relocate for their job, facilities may also offer financial assistance to cover any moving expenses.

Are Sign-On Bonuses Effective for Hiring? Pros and Cons

For hospitals, offering sign-on bonuses for nurses can become costly if staff aren’t staying long enough to combat turnover costs. In fact, some studies have shown that the value of nurse sign-on bonuses largely depends on how they’re structured.

When incorporated into a more comprehensive retention strategy, sign-on bonuses can be an effective tool to attract qualified nurses and keep them satisfied in their roles. But rather than using bonuses as an end-all and be-all incentive, facilities should offer them alongside other resources that support a healthy work environment.

The following table summarizes the more specific pros and cons of offering sign-on bonuses to nurses.

Pros Cons
Can help attract a higher volume of applicants when listed on job postings

Can be one way to match the salary expectations of other job offers

Can help sway highly qualified nurses who are on the fence about accepting a job offer

Can enhance job satisfaction when coupled with other professional development resources

Nurses may perceive bonuses as a tactic to cover up poor working conditions

May attract nurses who are more driven by money than a facility’s mission and values

Can cause tension between staff if similar bonuses aren’t offered to all nurses

May temporarily inflate retention rates if nurses are leaving shortly after receiving their bonuses

Key Considerations When Offering a Nurse Sign-On Bonus

While sign-on bonuses may initially help attract candidates, here’s the bottom line: Nurses want to be in positions that support their long-term satisfaction and professional growth. There are many organizational factors that can drive nurses away from their jobs, such as short staffing, poor leadership, and demanding schedules.

To enhance recruitment and retention, facilities must address these common workplace issues so that nurses are incentivized to stay — even after they’ve received their bonus. This prevents nurses from jumping to other facilities that may offer more comprehensive support modalities.

Find a Staffing Solution That Works for Your Facility

Figuring out how to effectively incorporate a nurse sign-on bonus into your hiring strategy can take time and effort — but IntelyCare is here to help. Discover how our range of custom staffing solutions can help you recruit and retain high quality nursing professionals.