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NH facilities offer nurses incentives

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 18. 2016 8:41PM

More in this series
• Sunday: New Hampshire, like the rest of the country, is facing a shortage of nurses. And the area of elder care, particularly New Hampshire's nursing homes and at-home care providers, is feeling the brunt.

• Tuesday: A nurse from Kansas comes face-to-face with New Hampshire's complex and time-consuming licensing requirements.

Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday news report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging

With a limited pool of nurses to care for the state’s growing number of elderly patients, many facilities are turning to incentives to attract nurses and aides.

The Grafton County Nursing Home offers $500 sign-on bonuses and a $10,000 loan-forgiveness program for registered nurses.

“We’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to do the same thing to offer incentives to bring people on board,” said Craig Labore, administrator of the Grafton County Nursing Home in North Haverhill.

But there’s one big incentive many providers say they are having trouble offering — health benefits.

“It’s not all about the paycheck. We can’t provide benefits,” said Mary Lambert, human resources manager at Lake Sunapee Region VNA & Hospice.

She said the organization will get five applications for personal care assistants; perhaps three will call back and be offered jobs. One might accept.

“We’re at 20 percent for hiring and we will pay for LNA (licensed nursing assistant) school,” she said.

Brendan Williams, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Health Association, said the inability to provide benefits is a common problem among those serving elderly patients at home and nursing home settings because of the low Medicaid reimbursement rates.

“It’s one of those costs associated with patient care and it’s eating people alive now,” Williams said.

The state community college system is also trying to encourage students to go into nursing. The state’s community colleges are offering two-year associate’s degree nursing students the opportunity to get a four-year bachelor’s degree at Granite State College at community college prices.

This “pathway” program means a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing will cost about $38,000. That compares to more than $57,000 at the University of New Hampshire.

With the loan-forgiveness program at Grafton County Nursing Home, a bachelor’s in nursing could be had for less than $30,000. The program began July 1. Labore said so far, only one student has taken advantage of the program; he expects many more this year. He said the forgiveness programs are more effective than sign-on bonuses.

“Success with those sign-ons has been very limited. We’ve seen evidence of people going place to place to get the bonus,” Labore said.

John Getts, president and CEO of Home Health & Hospice Care, said they offer employee referral bonuses, professional development and other programs to keep nurses on staff. He said he is only down 5 percent in nursing, which is better than the 7 to 10 percent rates other elder health care providers reported.

Get them early

Another way to attract nurses is to get them in the door before they finish their course of studies. Places like Grafton County Nursing Home and Home Health & Hospice Care serve as clinical sites, where students in various programs come to learn.

Labore said the nursing home works with two LNA programs in the hope students will like the environment and stay.

“Of a class size of eight, we may be able to bring two or three on board,” Labore said. “They’ve enjoyed it. They want to come to work here.”

There are also many scholarship opportunities available. The New Hampshire Long Term Care Foundation awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to 45 caregivers in long-term care centers in 2016 alone. The foundation was established to promote the care and wellness of New Hampshire’s elderly.

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