Tuition Reimbursement Could Be Key To Attract and Retain Fresh RN Talent

Tuition reimbursement is a desirable employee benefit for many nurses, particularly younger generations in the profession.

Our nursing salary research report of more than 4,500 U.S. nurses revealed close to 80% of millennial nurses and 57% of Generation X nurses plan on attaining more education to boost their overall salary potential.

Further, the pursuit of either a certification or more education was the goal of 50% of the overall nurse respondents, irrespective of their age group, with 56% of the men and 49% of the women participants saying this was their goal.

Out of the nurses who responded to the survey, nearly 1,276 (39%) said they received an average of $2,619 in continuing education reimbursement at the time of the survey.

Although these numbers reveal not every healthcare organization offers tuition reimbursement, some believe it’s a good investment and an attractive benefit when recruiting nurses.

The general consensus is offering tuition reimbursement may increase the likelihood of retaining nurses as long-term employees while helping to improve the quality of care their institutions provide to patients.

How to encourage professional development and nurse engagement

Stanford Health Care in Stanford, Calif., offers $2,000 tuition reimbursement per year to all employees.

Stanford nurses can use the money for either traditional academic pursuits or certification classes for a specialty, said Katie Stephens, MSN, RN, PCCN, program manager in nursing excellence at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Medicine.

“Offering tuition reimbursement is one of the ways we promote lifelong learning and professional development for all of our nurses,” she said.

A number of nurses at Stanford are pursuing their DNPs, while others seek to earn master’s degrees to become clinical nurse leaders, or CNLs, Stephens said.

“Nurses who attain more education are integral in helping bring about organizational change and raising awareness of the complexities of healthcare and all its moving parts,” she said. “Professional engagement and development of our nurses creates a better care environment for our patients. As a Magnet organization, both nurse engagement and ongoing professional development are essential in developing and maintaining an organization that achieves nursing excellence.”

How tuition reimbursement improves patient outcomes

Kimberly S. Glassman, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, senior vice president of patient care services and CNO at NYU Langone Health, described the tuition reimbursement offerings at Tish Hospital.

The facility offers a rich benefits package that includes paying for up to 24 credits per year of college classes for nurses who are pursuing a nursing degree at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

“We have the most educated group of nurses here, with 98% of our nurses already having a BSN or higher when they join our organization, so many of our nurses who use this benefit pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in nursing,” said Glassman, who also holds an endowed position as the Lerner director of health promotion at NYU. “Others use the benefit to earn post-master’s certificates such as nurse practitioner.”

In addition to improving health outcomes for patients, “nurses who have more education also help to decrease overall costs of care and also report having a better caregiver experience,” said Carol L. Kubeldis, BSN, RN, vice president of talent acquisition at Providence St. Joseph Health in Renton, Wash.

Providence offers tuition reimbursement to all their benefits eligible caregivers at an overall average of $3,500 per year, with differing amounts depending on the caregiver’s role and the type of education program they’re pursuing, said Maracie Wilson, MSN, RN, PHN, director of caregiver well-being at Providence St. Joseph Health.

“The largest group taking advantage of our tuition reimbursement are nurses who are pursuing a BSN. We have a smaller group working toward their MSN, and a sizeable portion of our nurses are pursuing doctoral degrees in nursing,” Wilson said.

Kubeldis also shares how nurses use their special tuition reimbursement benefits.

“We have a network of discounted schools that are part of the package, and some certification programs are included too. Also included in our tuition reimbursement program is our own school, the University of Providence located in Great Falls, Mont., which offers brick-and-mortar classes as well as online programs,” Kubeldis said.

Glassman said she is one example of a nurse who took advantage of her organization’s tuition reimbursement program and stayed on the job.

In addition to earning both her master’s of art in nursing administration and PhD in nursing from NYU, she has been on staff at NYU Lagone Health for more than 40 years and counting.

“Education matters,” Glassman said. “A more educated nursing staff has a direct and positive correlation between the quality of care and patient outcomes.”