For months now, we have been telling Penn State Health (PSH) about the serious problem with our ability to recruit and retain nurses. We have offered our solution — a significant cost of living increase to incentivize Hershey nurses to stay at the bedside and attract other nurses in the region to join our ranks.

In December, we asked PSH to tell us their plan to keep our patients safe and our staffing levels intact. They offered to move our raise scheduled for May to January while taking other contractual items from us. Union members voted against this.

On Jan. 6th, we met with PSH Executive VP and COO and HMC Interim President Deborah Addo to reiterate our concerns to her and other senior leaders. Here are some of the highlights:

Hershey is the market leader in care and we believe that needs to be reflected in compensation for nurses.

  • Management reiterated that the cost of moving our raise to January is not insignificant — about $1.4 million total.
  • Many of the salaries we’re seeing on offer sheets from places like Lancaster reflect temporary compensation policies – PSH is offering much more competitive salaries in order to quickly staff new hospitals, but these enhanced salaries will not be offered on a permanent basis, nor are they guaranteed raises.
  • Wages are usually listed in exit surveys as the second or third reason for leaving with leadership being number one.
  • There was a 12% increase in healthcare costs this year – none of the premium increase was passed on to employees.
  • Penn State Health is currently engaged in market research to see how RN compensation compares in the region. We’ve asked to have nurses in the room when they review that data because we believe the cornerstone of a healthy relationship is transparency and consensus around information.

We’re concerned about the promised mass staff exodus after the final bonus installment.

  • Turnover was 12% in 2020, 24% in 2021, and 18% in 2022. The data shows that turnover peaked right before the retention bonus was implemented. While turnover has trended downward since then, we are still about 200 nurses short of full complement and are very concerned about what will happen when the bonus program ends after February. In a recent survey of HMC nurses, 199 – 45% of respondents – indicated that they would likely leave after February.
  • Penn State Health has a team currently analyzing the impact of the retention bonus. The last bonus cost the system $40M, but nearby competitors spent as much or more and so the overall impact of the retention bonus was weakened.

We believe we need to be able to fill our complement to provide the highest quality of patient care.

  • We’re about 200 nurses short of full complement. We learned on Friday that there are currently 3,000 open nursing positions in the region. Many systems are expanding, but there are not enough nurses to keep up with that demand.
  • We know management will never be able to reduce dependency on agency nurses without investing in recruitment and retention of core staff. It’s clear that if HMC is to continue as a provider of choice in the region we have to also be the employer of choice for the nurses who live in the region. Our complement is stable, but if we don’t continue major investments in nursing it may not be long before we’re losing more nurses to our competitors.

If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to our organizer, Norah, at or at 732-687-6913.

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