AHS Careers Blog

Nursing Sign-on Bonuses: Are They Real or Should You Run?

Dan Mealo
Posted by Dan Mealo on May 17, 2018 11:12:18 AM

Top football, baseball, and basketball players expect a sign-on bonus when they get drafted to go pro. The prospect of a sign-on bonus is probably not what drew you to become a nurse though. So when you see hefty RN sign-on bonuses advertised, your first reaction may be:

  • That sounds too good to be true…
  • What’s the catch?
  • Something has to be wrong…
  • Run!

nurse interviewing at hiring event

Before that “run away!” reflex kicks in, let’s look at RN sign-on bonuses, how they work in the healthcare labor market, and when they’re something for you to run toward instead of away from. In this post, we will consider:

  • Why do quality health care providers sometimes offer significant sign-on bonuses?
  • Does receiving a sign-on bonus mean that you won’t receive pay raises?
  • What types of bonuses are offered, and what commitments do they require after signing?
  • When does it make sense to take a job with a sign-on bonus?

1. Why do quality health care providers sometimes offer significant sign-on bonuses?

Nurses are in high demand, so Adventist Health System and other leading healthcare organizations work hard to provide offers that are competitive and will help attract top talentJust like with an elite athlete, the sign-on bonus is only a small part of a registered nurse’s overall rewards package. Additional features include base pay, benefits, work-life balance, opportunities to grow, quality facilities, and the team’s direction and culture.

In other words, sign-on bonuses are frosting on the cake, offered for specific jobs in select facilities in response to rapidly changing demands in today's healthcare labor market. Sign-on bonuses are not a replacement for competitive base pay, but at times, they are an important part of a fair and competitive job offer. Although they may feel like uncharted territory, they can work in your favor as a prospective team member!

nurse hiring event interview

2. Does receiving a sign-on bonus mean that you won’t receive pay raises?

No way! Sign-on incentives are completely separate from base pay calculations and do not affect raises for team members. Our pay grades are set based on extensive market research, and they are updated regularly to reflect market changes. In addition, performance and promotional increases are regularly offered to our nurses. Our goal is not just to attract the best new talent; we also want to retain and grow our existing talent.

two nurses reviewing charts

3. What types of bonuses are offered?

Sign-on bonuses typically fall into two categories: relocation incentives and commitment bonuses. Combined, these can add up to a significant amount of money and are designed to assist your transition to a new employer and perhaps to a new geographic area. Both work slightly differently though, so it’s important to understand the differences when evaluating an offer.

Relocation Incentives

Relocation incentives are often paid as one lump sum within the first few paychecks you receive as a new team member. Relocation bonuses are designed to help high-demand talent move and get established in a new geographic area. The total amount often depends on the specifics of how far you are moving and the job role for which you are moving. Taxes are withheld from the total of relocation bonuses. If you leave before the period stated in your agreement is complete, you will typically owe some money back, often on a pro-rated basis for how much of the agreed upon period you already completed.

couple moving into new house

Commitment Bonuses

Commitment bonuses are often paid out in installments over a designated period of time. Your recruiter can go over the exact terms for a position you may be considering, but for example, let’s say that you are committing to work as a full-time nurse for two years in your agreement. The bonus may be paid out in four installments over those two years. If you leave during the two years, you may owe the money back based on the terms of your agreement.


4. When does it make sense to take a job with a sign-on bonus?

The short answer is that it makes sense to take market based sign-on bonus incentives when the job is a good fit for you! It's unwise to take a job that you wouldn't want otherwise just because it offers attractive sign-on incentives. Sign-on incentives are extra icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

emergency room nurse talking with patients

When evaluating any potential employment offer, talk with your recruiter to get a complete picture of the role, the organization, the compensation and benefits. Starting a new job should be exciting, and so should growing your career with an organization that you are still thrilled to be a part of after the initial adjustment. It is important to find a career path that you want to be on, in a team that you want to be with, living in an area you want to live in, and working toward a mission that you want to accomplish. Nurses across the country have found that Adventist Health System offers these things. We hope that you do too, and invite you to attend one of our upcoming RN hiring events or explore our career opportunities online.  

Tags: hiring event, pay, compensation, sign-on bonus