The University of Maryland Medical System plans to spend $5.1 million to attract nurses and other clinical graduates of two-year community colleges in the region to its hospitals, beginning with those earning degrees this month.
Hospitals in Maryland and around the country have faced staff shortages during the coronavirus pandemic. As needs have increased, some nurses have burned out or retired or been recruited away by temp services and to other jobs.
Now the 13-hospital system is launching a coordinated effort called the UMMS Community College Tuition Assistance Incentive Program. It will offer 300 new nurses and 300 other staffers money to offset the cost of their education.
Registered nurses can receive $12,000 if they commit to two years of employment at UMMS. Clinicians, including licensed practical nurses, surgical technicians, radiographers, respiratory therapists, certified nursing assistants and patient care techs, can receive $5,000 if they commit to one year of employment.
Applicants will be chosen by an in-house team for the awards and must complete orientation and pass licensure exams and certifications.
“The demand to fill skilled clinical positions is at an all-time high and we want to be the employer of choice for community college graduates seeking employment in health professions,” said Lisa Rowen, the system’s senior vice president and chief nurse executive, in a statement.
“We are hopeful that these funds will help the graduates cover much of their educational expenses and further differentiate UMMS from other health care employers.”
For the program, the system is partnering with colleges including Anne Arundel Community College, Baltimore City Community College, Cecil College, Chesapeake College, College of Southern Maryland, Community College of Baltimore County, Harford Community College, Howard Community College, Montgomery College, Prince George’s Community College, Wor-Wic Community College and Delaware Technical Community College.
The program isn’t the first move to attract or retain nurses and other staff during the pandemic.
The affiliated University of Maryland School of Nursing has been allowing nursing students to graduate a bit early to head to the front lines of the pandemic. The Maryland system also has taken other steps to lure workers generally, including a guaranteed $15 minimum wage.
In Maryland, hospitals have instituted COVID-19 vaccine requirements to protect staff and patients, but also to keep workers on the job and not sick or in quarantine.