<I have heard them called "sucker bonus' " and am wondering why? >
One place I know of that is trying to start a sign-on bonus program makes it sound great for the unsuspecting nurse. But its not "free money" by any means. Those nurses aint getting nothin for nothin. This particular facility wants to give sign-on bonuses to new hires BUT in exchange for that money, it also wants to cut the contributions it makes to these nurses pensions by 1/2, not let them vest into it for 5 yrs, cut their medical benefits and make them pay for it too. And while the other nurses working there get 5 weeks vacation, these new hires would get only 4 weeks. The other nurses are able to cash out up to 150 hrs (about $4000) of accumulated unused sick time when they resign & get paid for those hrs. These new hires would not have that option and when they leave the facility, the pay for their accumulated unused sick time would be forfeited.
So the sign-on "bonus" of a couple of thousand $$$ at this one facility would be no real bonus at all. In fact, at this place, the RN would be losing money in the long run. But she wont know it. She'll think shes getting all this "extra" money --- until she takes the job, starts talking to the other staff nurses & finds out about what they already have that she doesnt. By then she would have already accepted the deal and be stuck with it.
Also, while those newly hired nurses would not be getting full pension contributions, or full vacation time, or any sick time cash-out, and would be paying the costs for their medical benefits themselves out of their own pocket the whole time, their sign-on bonuses would not be paid to them until the end of the term and only if the Rn has met a whole host of conditions that she must have maintained for the entire length of time she was working. If she messed up on any little thing, she would lose the right to the bonus and get nothing at the end of the term.
So she has to spend a year or 2 walking on eggshells cause if her employee evaluation is not perfect, the bonus would not be paid. If she calls in sick more than twice in a year, she forfeits the bonus. So, if you use your sick time, you lose your bonus. If you dont use your sick time, you might get your bonus but lose the unused sick time cash out (which can be worth more than what the bonus would have been). If she gets any type of disciplinary action, the bonus would be cancelled then too. And with the current big focus on "customer satisfaction", a dissatisfied "customer" complaining that her call-bell wasnt answered by you "in a timely fashion", (never mind that you had 8 other pts requiring your attention at the same time & you only have 2 hands), or a doctor complaining about something she doesnt like about you could earn you a disciplinary action & cost you your bonus.
A sign-on bonus like this one is a marketing scheme for the hospital but it would be a no-win for the nurse. Sign-on bonuses like this one seem to be used as bait to get you in, use you up, and then look for any reason to get out of having to pay you that money.
In addition, there must be a reason why the place cant fill its vacant positions or keep its nurses. Usually its their working conditions. If youre considering a job offering a sign-on bonus, do your homework. There are some places that do the right thing and then there are a lot of places like the one I mentioned.
Read the fine print before accepting.