Pay Raises, Bonuses and Incentives: Where Are We?

Healthcare employers around the U.S. are finding ways to compensate employees for their patient dedication during the pandemic. Read on to find out more about COVID-19 pay, bonuses and incentives offered by some companies during the pandemic.


  • Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 30 years experience.
This article was reviewed and fact-checked by our Editorial Team.

I live in Alabama and the pandemic has opened my eyes to how nurses pay in my state trails behind compensation in most other states.  This has been the case throughout my 27 years of nursing, but I always thought it was because of our lower cost of living.  Currently, Alabama is ranked the 3rd lowest in nursing pay when compared to compensation in other states. The high number of people with chronic illness contributed to the ranking of #10 in states with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.

To better understand the pay gap, I try to learn more about any staffing and pay issues in other states.  I've compiled information from recent news articles to discover how employers in other states are showing nurse appreciation through pay incentives.

Houston Methodist Offers "You Rock" and "Hope" bonuses

Houston Methodist hospital is offering a bonus to thank workers for persevering in 2020 and to also to spread hope for the months to come.  COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory for employees, but it is included in the bonus eligibility criteria.  In November 2020, Houston Methodist gave a "you rock" bonus to recognize employees for their hard work during the pandemic.  The Houston Methodist system consists of 8 hospitals with around 26,000 employees.

Vanderbilt Nurses Get Pay Raise

Vanderbilt University Health System, in Nashville, announced pay raises for their nurses early in the pandemic.  In April 2020, a local new station brought forward a complaint from a nurse frustrated with the dramatically higher pay rates of travel nurses.  In a statement released by VUMC, administration announced a pay increase for all nurses and nurse managers involved in direct patient care.

Texas Children's Hospital Receive Special Stipend

In January, Houston's Texas Children's Hospital recognized employees' hard work during the pandemic with a special stipend.  Full-time employees received a $500 stipend and part-time employees were given a $250 stipend.  These same stipends were distributed in April 2020 before the pandemic's peak.

Wake Forest Baptist Health Increases Pay for 60% of Employees

Wake Forest Baptist Health announced plans on March 3rd to pay increases for about 60% of their total employees.  CEO, Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag, expressed gratitude in a news release, stating "I have personally witnessed their dedication to our patients and their families and have seen them provide such comfort and assistance, no matter their job".  The initiative will include the following:

  • Increase base pay to $15.00 per hour, or 
  • Increase pay by 2%, whichever is greater
  • Increase in minimum nurses pay rate
  • Nurses in professional salary plans to receive a $1.00 increase.
  • Night, evening and weekend shift differentials will be adjusted based on market analysis

The health system has more than 20,000 employees and about 12,000 will see pay increases in April 2021.

CVS Shows Gratitude

In December 2020, CVS gave nearly 200,000 workers a $250.00 bonus for their hard work during the pandemic.  In addition, the company adjusted pay for some employees to help off-set loss of income related to the virus.

Virginia County Gives Hazard Pay Bonus

High risk workers in Virginia's Fairfax County received a one-time hazard pay bonus of up to $2,000 in February 2021.  Eligible employees include those working in the following positions:

  • Medical transport providers
  • Hospital workers
  • Dental staff
  • Medical staff
  • Mortuary services
  • Non Medical support staff
  • Long term care staff
  • Home health workers

A Fairfax Board of Supervisors member,  Jeff McKay shared the following statement with a local news channel:

"Our first responders and other members of our county staff put their lives on the line every day, risking contracting COVID-19 in their work with the community."

COVID-19 Vaccination Incentives

Some companies are offering incentives to their essential workers who choose to be vaccinated.  The incentives are designed to ease any of the work barriers employees have in getting the one or both doses.  Here are a few companies offering incentives:


The grocery store will pay hourly employees up to four hours pay if they get vaccinated (two for each dose) and pay the cost of administration.

Dollar General

Offers a one-time payment equal to 4 hours pay to employees who opt for vaccination.  However, it does not make it a requirement.

Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants is offering paid time off for vaccination, two hours pay for each COVID-19 dose.  The pay will be based on workers total earning including tips.  Darden Restaurants operates chains including Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse.

Have You Received An Incentive?

Let's shed more light on what the industry is doing (and not doing) to acknowledge hard work and risks employees are faced with the coronavirus.  Let's share what's going on in our corner of the country.


Cumulative COVID-19 Cases and Deaths

J.Adderton has 28 years’ experience as a BSN, MSN and specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education.

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Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

Where am I at? I have seen none of this.

Specializes in Wiping tears. Has 5 years experience.

It's unstated that it's well understood that the medical workers must not expect anything because they're immortals. I'm dying to know how many upper-middle classes pursue healthcare, police, and other fields. 


J.Adderton, BSN, MSN

167 Articles; 495 Posts

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 30 years experience.
On 3/19/2021 at 5:04 PM, SmilingBluEyes said:

Where am I at? I have seen none of this.

I think you most likely represent the majority.  


1,586 Posts

I’m going to guess the ones that have received extra pay and bonuses are the hospitals that received help from the government in that very first stimulus.  That had to be spent on payroll.  

nursej22, MSN, RN

3,147 Posts

Specializes in Public Health, TB. Has 38 years experience.

I work in public health. No extra pay, no cost of living increase with newest union contract. If anything, I feel we have lost some of our benefits. 

Routine Monday-Friday schedules changed to include weekends. This may not seem significant, but we are paid significantly less than acute care and part of the trade-off is our schedule. 

Paid time off is  limited to 5 shifts per month, no more that 7 consecutive days off in a month. 

Specializes in Psychiatry, Forensics, Addictions. Has 11 years experience.

I have received no compensation for working through COVID.  

SilverBells, BSN

1,046 Posts

Specializes in Rehab/Nurse Manager. Has 8 years experience.

At my place, we are nowhere.  Everyone received the same pay this year; no more, no less.  

Specializes in Med-Surg, CVICU. Has 6 years experience.

My university health system was offering an extra $20/hr for any overtime shift picked up by nurses. This has now been reduced.

I dropped from full time to casual and took a 13 week travel contract. I am bringing home roughly 3x the bacon AND I don’t have to work night shift 

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 11 years experience.

The hospital I work at did a few things. They had a special 'covid sick pay' that did not come out of pto or normal sick leave. They gave a bonus of up to $1000 to patient contact staff (I forget all of the included staff members). And they gave a hefty pay increase to nurses and patient techs (assistants) of $5 and $2.50. I have heard there had been some previous reductions in staff overall (perhaps some of those that had been long-time employees).  So, balancing likely occurred...

Specializes in Wiping tears. Has 5 years experience.

Funny thing is that they get paid for accepting the COVID-19 patients.

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Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,343 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.
2 hours ago, ThursdayNight said:

Funny thing is that they get paid for accepting the COVID-19 patients.

Except that in the vast majority of cases, the funds paid don't actually cover the care provided. My facility has several patients STILL IN ICU who have been admitted for so long they're considered COVID recovered. But they're still taking up ICU space and vents and ECMO with no end in sight. Do you have any idea how much that actually costs? Do you really think the reimbursement even comes close to those costs? It's just like any other diagnosis- here's the reimbursement. Sucks to be you if it doesn't actually cover the costs.

On 3/19/2021 at 1:11 PM, J.Adderton said:

Let’s share what’s going on in our corner of the country.

No raises this year, but they did pay out the annual incentive bonus we get when meeting organizational goals, even though we didn't meet them.