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How Can Employment-Based Benefits Help the Nursing Shortage?

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For the past eight years, there has been pervasive concern about a chronic shortage of registered nurses (RNs). Although the supply of RNs appears to have risen in the past two years, there is widespread agreement that the aging of the nurse workforce will cause long-term problems, including large losses of nurses to retirement and decreased ability of older nurses to hold physically demanding jobs. During a labor shortage, employment-based benefits—such as health insurance, paid vacation, retirement programs, and tuition reimbursement—can be an important device to recruit and retain workers. Employment-based benefits are known to improve employee satisfaction, increase retention of staff, and enhance recruitment of personnel. However, relatively little is known about the employment-based benefits received by RNs and how these benefits can play a role in addressing the ongoing and future nursing shortage. This report provides data on the availability of employment-based benefits to RNs as compared with the general workforce, reports on how health care leaders are approaching the provision of employment-based benefits for nurses, and considers what nurses have to say about the employment-based benefits they receive and do not receive. We offer recommendations for health care leaders that follow from our findings about the current state of nurses' employment-based benefits. Overall, benefits are an important component of efforts to improve the working conditions for RNs, both to retain them and to ensure that patients receive high-quality nursing care.