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Billing new grads for not completing orientation?

I recently heard from a colleague that a hospital here in the LA area makes new grads sign contracts prior to orientation. The new grads agree to pay back the cost of their training if they do not complete the orientation period, and it can result in bills of up to $5000. They will be billed if they are not found to be a good fit for the facility, and several of this hospital's most recent cohort have been let go and billed.

I was so shocked by this that I emailed the hospital's HR department, and they confirmed that it's true.

Is this the new norm for hiring new grads?! It is outrageous and shameful to bill new grads, who are likely in debt and who are certainly unemployed, because the job did not work out.

I can see doing that for someone not having problems who chooses to leave, but to punish a new hire that does not meet expectations? No, no, no.

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

I recently heard from a colleague that a hospital here in the LA area makes new grads sign contracts prior to orientation. The new grads agree to pay back the cost of their training if they do not complete the orientation period, and it can result in bills of up to $5000. They will be billed if they are not found to be a good fit for the facility, and several of this hospital's most recent cohort have been let go and billed.

I was so shocked by this that I emailed the hospital's HR department, and they confirmed that it's true.

Is this the new norm for hiring new grads?! It is outrageous and shameful to bill new grads, who are likely in debt and who are certainly unemployed, because the job did not work out.

Wow ....yeah, contracts for new grads are pretty common in tight markets, but firing someone and then expecting them to pay is especially harsh. I guess we're all free to sign or not to sign, though. I wonder if people have intentionally "not worked out" to break their contracts? ...like called in a bunch of times without concern because they want to be released.

roser13, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC. Has 17 years experience.

Totally agree that charging an employee who was let go during orientation is cruel and unusual.

HOWEVER, I see too many new nurses here (not gonna say young, just new grads) who treat orientation in a very cavalier manner. Even when a contract has been signed (as in the OR), the questions we get here are all about how to skip out on the position while avoiding paying for the contract that they signed. So, given that (in my opinion) trend, and the oversupply of new grads in most large cities, I can understand why this is happening.

NurseSpeedy, ADN, LPN, RN

Has 18 years experience.

Ouch. I've seen many companies require a 2 year contract in exchange for a lengthy orientation but to charge them for the cost of the orientation only because they are found to be 'not a good fit' and therefore let go seems like a really shady deal. I could understand letting someone go because they call off too much or aren't performing up to standard, but this reason is way too broad (oops, we overhired, time to make cuts....hope this isn't the case).

I've been lucky with never having to sign a contract. I have known of some nurses getting stuck with crappy assignments and no way out due to a contract that would cost them too much to break.

A contract is always meant to benefit the employer. Read and understand the fine print before signing.

Swellz

Specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown. Has 6 years experience.

My job required us to sign a 2 year contract if we were required to take the critical care course to work on our unit; not fulfilling the 2 year contract resulted in paying back $6000. Mind you, there was a policy on file that said my floor didn't have to do the course, but I had no idea when I signed. Miscommunication is fun.

I believe Florida hospital is doing the same thing, to the tune of $13,000.

Its defintely making me rethink which new grad residencies I want to apply for.

I think this makes it abundantly clear for those who still insist that there's a national shortage of nurses that obviously there is not. If hospitals can afford to have such a contract in place it means they know they can fill new grad vacancies easily. If someone chooses to not sign they can be replaced by someone who will. Not a good position to be in as a new grad but also like roser said it'll probably make some people who don't take contracts seriously to start taking them seriously.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

I think this makes it abundantly clear for those who still insist that there's a national shortage of nurses that obviously there is not. If hospitals can afford to have such a contract in place it means they know they can fill new grad vacancies easily. If someone chooses to not sign they can be replaced by someone who will. Not a good position to be in as a new grad but also like roser said it'll probably make some people who don't take contracts seriously to start taking them seriously.

We see so many new grads in my magnet hospital who have no plans to stay in their jobs any longer than the absolute minimum time it takes them to get into anesthesia school. Seeing a few go from orientation to anesthesia school without ever spending any time as a nurse makes one understand why contracts are necessary. Paying for your training even if you're fired seems a bit harsh, but I'm guessing that hospital has been burned a few times to even consider such a thing.

Jules A, MSN

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner.

We see so many new grads in my magnet hospital who have no plans to stay in their jobs any longer than the absolute minimum time it takes them to get into anesthesia school. Seeing a few go from orientation to anesthesia school without ever spending any time as a nurse makes one understand why contracts are necessary. Paying for your training even if you're fired seems a bit harsh, but I'm guessing that hospital has been burned a few times to even consider such a thing.

Absolutely and with the expectation of the length of orientation that new nurses seemt entitled to now I can imagine why the hospital would want something in return if they are horrible or leave quickly. I mean some of the posts here are amazingly smug with regard to the demands that orientations essentially last months and teach them what the nursing schools really should taught them prior to graduation. Going back years now but I literally had a new grad RN, CNL so supposedly masters prepared, who had not given an IM injection while in nursing school, WTH?

The other thing is why would a hospital just fire a new employee they hired and trained unless they were terrible? It doesn't make sense. The $5,000 to a new grad might seem like a fortune but is nothing to a hospital especially compared to having a skilled new team member.

HelloWish, ADN, BSN

Specializes in IMCU, Oncology. Has 3 years experience.

I actually feel that many hospitals need to have this contract in place because they cannot hold onto nurses due to a broken system, under staffing, too high patient to nurse ratio, the bottom line is most important, etc. I signed a 2 year contract as new grad and I am not a young new grad as a 40 year old. Never again will I sign a contract with any company because now I realize it is because hospitals just don't treat their nurses well and the bottom line is priority one - ultimately retention is a problem. They know they will not be able to hold onto these nurses so rather than fix what is broken so they can keep new nurses, charge the nurses who leave. The previous new cohort from my hospital of new grads have all quit except for one and moved on to other similar positions because they felt it was worthwhile to pay $5000 back.

Edited by HelloWish

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 43 years experience.

The worst case I ever dealt with personally was an experienced nurse switching specialties. She put in her 30-day resignation on Day 2 of employment. She had accepted a job in that new specialty in another city -- and wanted to go there with some experience under her belt. She thought she would get 30 days of paid orientation from us and then take that experience to her new employer. (And no, she didn't work for us before. She was a new employee for the hospital system.)

She was surprised that I told her to leave right away -- in the middle of the day -- and that we would not pay her to take our orientation classes prior to her move out of town.

It's nurses like that who have lead hospitals to require contracts.

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 9 years experience.

I'd be interested in reading the full text of the contract to see if repayment was required if the hospital decided to let the employee go. If the employer decides the employee just "isn't a good fit" I agree that demanding they pay back part of their earnings is unfair. However, if they employee decided to leave the position, or otherwise violated company policy (behaviorally, ethically, etc) that resulted in termination, I see nothing wrong with a contract requiring the employee repay of what they earned while orienting.

In the LA area, a new grad is probably making about $14,000 over the course of a 10 week orientation. That's a big expense for the hospital if that employee turns around leaves.

EllaBella1, BSN

Specializes in ICU. Has 5 years experience.

I signed one for my job with a $13,000 payback and I don't regret it. The contract is for two years, and the amount that you would have to pay back if you were to leave early goes down for every 4 months that you work. My hospital also didn't come after people who had legitimate reasons to need to leave- i.e. one girl who started with me, her mom got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer about a year after we started, and they allowed her to break her contract to move home with no penalty. I think the system is more in place to prevent people from abusing the new grad programs- getting their year of experience and moving on. My hospital also won't fire someone unless they REALLY are unfit for the job. They will take people and move them to new units/different specialties, etc, and will try to work with you extensively via education, etc. If you show no effort, refuse to be open to changing your practice, don't show up for work, call out regularly, etc and are fired, then those are the people who should be held to these contracts.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

I signed one for my job with a $13,000 payback and I don't regret it. The contract is for two years, and the amount that you would have to pay back if you were to leave early goes down for every 4 months that you work. My hospital also didn't come after people who had legitimate reasons to need to leave- i.e. one girl who started with me, her mom got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer about a year after we started, and they allowed her to break her contract to move home with no penalty. I think the system is more in place to prevent people from abusing the new grad programs- getting their year of experience and moving on. My hospital also won't fire someone unless they REALLY are unfit for the job. They will take people and move them to new units/different specialties, etc, and will try to work with you extensively via education, etc. If you show no effort, refuse to be open to changing your practice, don't show up for work, call out regularly, etc and are fired, then those are the people who should be held to these contracts.

This sounds like a fair hospital. I cannot blame them for requiring a two year contract, given that so many new grads abuse their first job by leaving at the first opportunity. Most of them do not even plan to stay -- they're just taking the job "until I get into graduate school" or "until my boyfriend is transferred to Milwaukee in six months." If they're honestly willing to work with people who have legitimate reasons for leaving that were unforeseeable when they took the job, it seems more than fair.

OCNRN63, RN

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

The worst case I ever dealt with personally was an experienced nurse switching specialties. She put in her 30-day resignation on Day 2 of employment. She had accepted a job in that new specialty in another city -- and wanted to go there with some experience under her belt. She thought she would get 30 days of paid orientation from us and then take that experience to her new employer. (And no, she didn't work for us before. She was a new employee for the hospital system.)

She was surprised that I told her to leave right away -- in the middle of the day -- and that we would not pay her to take our orientation classes prior to her move out of town.

It's nurses like that who have lead hospitals to require contracts.

That takes chutzpah!

Not_A_Hat_Person, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics, Home Health. Has 10 years experience.

It's different if they quit, but billing New grads for not finishing orientation just because "things didn't work out" is sketchy as Hell.

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