Near breaking point in COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals turn aggressive to hire more nurses – Greeley Tribune

Chicago (CBS) – Thin even before a global pandemic, a national shortage of nurses – who are needed more than ever – has made a mark here in the Chicago area.

“Many of us are worried that the healthcare system is going to break down,” said Paul Pater of the Illinois Nurses Association. “Nurses are at their breaking point.”

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To help fill the gap, hospitals are offering signing bonuses, incentives and unique programs for graduate students who face constant change, a never-ending learning curve and wide-open eyes.

“It’s a good scare, because it’s allowing me to keep my mind open to get through nursing school and really just want to help,” said Kristin Kavlauskas, a nursing student at Lewis University. “A part of me is really excited to graduate and help where it’s needed.”

A recent Lewis University nursing graduate agrees.

“It’s intimidating,” said Jennifer Schonheider. “It’s a little scary to join the fray at the moment. But it’s comforting to know that my classmates and I are going to get involved in this field and support that shortfall.”

Kristin and Jennifer both said they chose the field to help people — to make a difference. They have already seen the impact of the nursing shortage.

The shortage has created unique opportunities for those entering the field and those willing to take on additional work to fill the gaps left largely by COVID-19.

Some area hospitals are partnering to offer more funding for nurses looking to take shifts. Nurses at Amita St. Joseph’s Medical Center got an extra $50 an hour to take shifts at Juliet Hospital.

Hospitals in the suburbs are adding incentives to encourage nurses to increase their workload. is offering nurses working a 12-hour shift an additional $30 per hour, plus $1,200 if they take three shifts within six weeks and an additional $3,000 if they take six shifts in that time.

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“It’s tempting that there are so many bonuses and incentives for overtime and incentives to work X days in a row, but it all comes down to patient safety and personal burnout,” Schonheider said. “And I think some institutions need to consider before implementing some of these incentives and concerns of overwork.”

Something Pater resonated with the Illinois Nurses Association. This is why the union fought for an overall hourly increase in UIC.

“We negotiated an additional $15 an hour for every hour we worked, whether or not you were taking extra shifts.”

Lewis University Just started a program with Silver Cross Hospital. Students who work in a hospital after graduation are eligible for up to $27,000 of student loan repayment over the four years.

“I think we all have to think creatively about how we can attract young or newcomers to the profession,” said Michael Matter, chief nursing officer at Silver Cross Hospital.

Hope? To be able to serve the populations in both of our organizations to address the shortage and to keep passionate talent local, Mutterer said.

“Nurses are needed,” Kavlauskas said. “We need to go through school so we can help everyone.”

About 20% of existing nurses, at the bottom, are expected to retire and leave the field within the next five years.

Mutterer said programs, such as Silver Cross Hospital, hope to not only bridge the gap but encourage students to come to the area.

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