Hospitals across the country are dealing with the problem of nurses who are retiring, and not enough nurses to take their place.  However, Erie's Saint Vincent Hospital is facing that challenge head-on.

Sallie Piazza, Interim Chief Nursing Officer, likes to use the term “perfect storm” when describing the desperate challenge hospitals are facing in hiring new nurses.

"We have many nurses that are aging.  We have not enough nurses graduating from schools, and our population that we're taking care of is aging,” she said.

Saint Vincent is working closely with all local colleges to recruit new nurses.  Of the 200 nurses the hospital hired in 2018, 79 were new graduates.   63 nursing students have already signed-on to work at Saint Vincent when they graduate in 2019. That number is expected to rise.  Saint Vincent offers a summer program where senior nursing students partner with a full-time nurse at the hospital to learn hands-on nursing skills.  Those students usually sign-on with Saint Vincent upon graduation.

"They do.” says Piazza. “That is part of the reasoning for doing it because nurses do become more comfortable when they do their practicums. They understand the culture of the hospital, the culture of the floor and the people that they work with."

Saint Vincent is also convincing  nurses from foreign countries to come to Erie and work.  According to Katie Poeschel, Director of Talent Acquisition at Allegheny Health Network, 6 international nurses were hired last year at Saint Vincent with 10 more expected by the summer of this year. 

"It's not a hard sell,” says Poeschel.  “Most of them are looking for opportunities, opportunities to come to the U.S.  For us, we're looking at opportunities to diversify our work place.  So, it's a great partnership and it gives them the opportunity to bring their family here for what they consider a better life."
    Of course, money talks. Saint Vincent is offering a $5,000 signing bonus for all newly graduated nurses.   For nurses with experience, depending on which department you're assigned, that bonus could reach $10,000.

All recruiting efforts are paying off at Saint Vincent. The hospital's vacancy rate for bedside nurses, is now 3.3 percent. The national average is 6.5 percent.