I recently interviewed and was offered a job at KU Med Center for the nurse fellowship. This fellowship only applies to specialty areas in the Critical Care areas, and requires a 2 year work commitment. Only 6 other hospitals in the country offer nurse fellowships, and they are at some of the biggest, and best hospitals in the country. The first year is A LOT of orientation, classroom instruction, and clinical training. Such programs are only for new grads, and not nurses who have been out in the field for a while.
The two year contract doesn't bother me (I've been at my present hospital for the past 7 years). I was enticed by the amount of training they offer new grads, and two years is a small compared to the education you are going to get. KU is our area's ONLY nationally accredited Level 1 Trauma Center...all other hospitals in the area transfer their most horrific cases to them. That being said, KU wants to ensure that their nurses can handle ANYTHING that is wheeled through the doors, and it is in their best interest to spend a lot of money in training and education. In two years I plan on taking three months off a year to do a travel assignment (KU allows this). I want to be confident in the fact that I can be dropped in any ICU in the country and be able not only tread water, but swim with the big fishes...maybe even be a big fish myself.
I've talked to many nurses who work at KU, as well as friends whose spouses work there as well, and I have been told the only real bad thing is the parking (which is not an issue for night shift people). KU has come around to the idea that in order to keep your nurses, you must take care of them. This not only includes training and education, but other benefits as well.
I cannot fault any hospital for putting contractual obligations for training new grads to work in clinical settings. That is a lot of money when you really think about it. I do tend to worry about these places that offer huge sign-on bonuses. That is usually a red flag that working conditions might be less then ideal.
Just research your hospital of choice thoroughly before signing on the dotted line. Talk to staff members (not at job fairs either, because at those things...everyone says that working there is a dream come true
), ask a lot of questions, and don't be willing to settle for the first offer you get. I don't think because you are a new grad, you have to work in the armpit of the hospital to start out with. All hospitals have their quirks (I'm not a HUGE KU fan...I'm more of a Huskers girl), but it comes down to what you can live with, and what you can live without.