My sign on bonus was in the form of a scholarship
because my school was associated with the hospital. I received $10,000 paid directly to the school for tuition for nursing classes only (GE and pre-req credits were my responsibility). Each full semester (total of 4 - didn't include summer or Intro to Nursing) I received a $500 stipend (so $2000 cash in hand). The catch was that I sign a contract to work in the hospital for one year
as an RN. If a student failed, or chose not to continue, they were obligated to pay the money back. Students and other new grads/RNs that opted not to do the scholarship but chose to work at the hospital were offered this $10,000 as a sign-on bonus. They had to sign a one year contract also, and the money I think is spaced out over 3-6 months and it is taxed.
I was more than happy to ease my financial burden for $10,000 tax free and if the hospital was unable to place me, I wouldn't have to pay the money back. I did most of my clinicals in this hospital and to top it off, the school is inside the hospital, so I'm familiar with the staff, the documentation, the computer programs, etc. and hope it will be a great transition from school to my first year as an RN (starting Monday). I consider it a win-win.