To sign the contract or not to sign?

Posted
by SunnyOnMySide SunnyOnMySide (New) New Student

Specializes in LPN. Has 3 years experience.

Hi everyone, 

I'm currently in my final semester of nursing school (RN) and I'm both excited and nervous at the same time.  Recently our affiliated hospital recruiters came to our school to talk about the hospital and how to apply for jobs as well as outlined some amazing benefits to signing on with their hospital.  Of these perks were the sign on bonus' in exchange for being under contract with this hospital for 3 years.  During this time, we can switch units after 2 years.  During Clinicals, I fell in love with postpartum and labor and delivery.  The recruiters informed us that there were only a couple of positions open for new grads in this specialty area, however we needed to wait until mid September in order to apply.  They encouraged us to look at the hospital career page to see what positions are available and strongly encouraged us to apply in September if we know where we want to work.  

The dilemma: After looking on the career page, I was excited to see both new grad postpartum and labor and delivery positions available on their website.  I've been checking every few days just to see if these positions are still available and today, I noticed both positions are no longer available.  I'm open to working on a different unit, however I'm not sure if I want to sign the contract (this is optional, but only signed contracts receive sign-on bonus). I hope I'm not coming across as entitled or whining.  I genuinely would be happy to just have a job to look forward to after graduation, however I was hopeful to get to start out where I truly found my interest.  

So the advice I'm seeking is, if I apply for and am chosen to work in another position on a different unit with plans to transfer to postpartum or labor and delivery when a position becomes available, should I sign the 3 year contract or not?  I'm not sure how often these opportunities come about, but I definitely don't want to miss it if it happens within the first 2 years. 

Thanks for any and all advise!

Edited by SunnyOnMySide
grammatical error, clarity

JKL33

6,328 Posts

I am an experienced nurse and am at a different place in life.

However, there is ZERO way I would sign a 3-year contract.

I would not advise any new grad that I know to sign any contract. BUT, I understand they are the current preference of humongous health systems who can't retain staff.

So, if the new grad understood the risks (which are substantial) and fully planned to put any potential "sign-on-bonus" money aside so that they could easily give it back promptly if the job wasn't working out or they needed to leave for some other reason, and understood that a lot of these places make verbal statements and promises they have no intention of keeping, and if they understand that some of them also blacklist people who leave before the contract is up,

...If they understand all of that, then signing a contract is reasonable.

Our best advice around here is:

"Prepare to stay, or prepare to pay."

Good luck!

SunnyOnMySide

Specializes in LPN. Has 3 years experience. 4 Posts

Thanks so much for responding.  Signing a contract is a very scary thing for me.  I am currently an LPN and only have experience in LTC, and clinic settings.  I have no idea what working in a hospital will be like, and the only thing I thought I was certain of is the specialty in which I am most interested in, which is working with women and babies or children.  (There are not many opportunities to work with children in the hospital setting in my area without prior experience.) It's currently looking like I may not be able to start where I would like, which may have been the only area I would've considered signing a contract with.  With all of that in mind, if I breach the contract in any way, I definitely need to keep in mind that the money they give me will need to be given back.  There is also the possibility that even if I were to work in women and children, I may not like it like I think I would.. 

I'm not the type of person who likes to jump around from job to job, but when going into a totally new work environment to which I know nothing about, the anxiety does creep in a bit to be held to a contract and knowing I cannot just leave or switch if I need to.  

While the sign on bonus is definitely enticing, I didn't think about the ulterior motives behind offering such a generous offer (10-20k).

I really appreciate your perspective on this, as it's given me more to think about.  

Edited by SunnyOnMySide

jv503

jv503

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 2 years experience. 7 Posts

I feel similarly to the above comment. I signed a contract as a new nurse (no bonus received) but I was in a rigorous new grad program/internship which offered 8 months of classroom experience paired with precepted clinical work in 5 ICUs and the ER. The contract was 3 years (including the initial 8 months) with a $20,000 penalty for breaking contract the first 1.5 years, $10,000 the second. I do not regret taking this opportunity but I would definitely stop and think much longer if I were to do it all over again. At least I knew the reason for the penalty-- they poured a ton of resources into me to learn and become a competent critical care nurse and they didn't want me jumping ship right after gaining all of that experience. I also had the flexibility to transfer within the facility if I wanted (which I did after almost 2 years) and it saved me at a time I was really burnt out in my previous unit. 

I've noticed a big trend in postings with bonuses for new grad jobs, but a contract associated with them. I would absolutely hesitate and learn as much as you can about the opportunity before you do that. In my eyes, that shows that they are extremely understaffed if they are trying to recruit new grads (nothing unique to contribute, sorry but true haha) with large sums of money and binding contracts. You should be able to learn and grow in a stress free environment. Especially in a time where nurses are in such high demand I recommend finding a job that either offers an incredible learning opportunity (like mine) OR is flexible so you can figure out what you are actually interested in before you commit and not get stuck somewhere. If your plan with the bonus would be to just stow it away in case you quit, I don't think the bonus is worth it. 

brandy1017

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. 2,709 Posts

I too wouldn't want to be tied to a 3 year contract when you don't know if you will like it and it isn't even the specialty you want to go into.  I understand many new grads could certainly use the money to repay student loan debt etc.  Be careful and cautious before agreeing to this.   If there are other hospitals around I would apply to them first if they have L&D openings.  Two years is a long time to wait for a possible transfer opportunity. 

Many of these contracts will force you to repay even if they fire you.  Ascension took over where I worked and the bonus contract they offered came with the threat that if you left at any time before the contract was over you had to pay the full amount with interest back!  That to me is a red flag and highly unethical!  Usually a payback would be pro-rated based on when you left.  Many of the new grads decided not to take the bonus and even left after just six months because short staffing was routine.

Before accepting a job with the hospital and tying yourself down with a three year contract I would look up nursing job reviews on glassdoor.com and indeed.com and read the comments!  Note they usually put the 5 stars first and many nurses will give higher stars than the actual conditions and comments warrant so read thru the comments to get a real idea of what working conditions are like.  Talk to coworkers if they know anyone working in the local hospitals too.

Be aware the bonuses are a necessary incentive that is due to the short staffing issues many hospitals are facing due to their own actions over many previous years of not dealing with staffing issues, morale and nursing retention.  The bonuses sound nice to a new grad but they are much cheaper than paying for travelers, cheaper than paying you a higher hourly starting pay, as well as a convenient way of holding you hostage with golden or I would say bronze handcuffs to what may turn out to be  a less than ideal job.  As they say all that glitters isn't gold.

The recruiters are salespeople and may make lies and broken promises.  Talking to others who work there and reading thru nursing reviews on glassdoor & indeed will give you a more honest assessment of things.  However if you have worked LTC you are already used to working in tough conditions and you must like working with the elderly and chronically disabled so I'm sure you could accept a med-surg job and do OK and transfer later.  Also your LPN experience will definitely make for a smoother RN transition.

I wish you success in your new nursing field!

Edited by brandy1017

SunnyOnMySide

Specializes in LPN. Has 3 years experience. 4 Posts

On 8/17/2022 at 4:42 PM, brandy1017 said:

I too wouldn't want to be tied to a 3 year contract when you don't know if you will like it and it isn't even the specialty you want to go into.  I understand many new grads could certainly use the money to repay student loan debt etc.  Be careful and cautious before agreeing to this.   If there are other hospitals around I would apply to them first if they have L&D openings.  Two years is a long time to wait for a possible transfer opportunity. 

Many of these contracts will force you to repay even if they fire you.  Ascension took over where I worked and the bonus contract they offered came with the threat that if you left at any time before the contract was over you had to pay the full amount with interest back!  That to me is a red flag and highly unethical!  Usually a payback would be pro-rated based on when you left.  Many of the new grads decided not to take the bonus and even left after just six months because short staffing was routine.

Before accepting a job with the hospital and tying yourself down with a three year contract I would look up nursing job reviews on glassdoor.com and indeed.com and read the comments!  Note they usually put the 5 stars first and many nurses will give higher stars than the actual conditions and comments warrant so read thru the comments to get a real idea of what working conditions are like.  Talk to coworkers if they know anyone working in the local hospitals too.

Be aware the bonuses are a necessary incentive that is due to the short staffing issues many hospitals are facing due to their own actions over many previous years of not dealing with staffing issues, morale and nursing retention.  The bonuses sound nice to a new grad but they are much cheaper than paying for travelers, cheaper than paying you a higher hourly starting pay, as well as a convenient way of holding you hostage with golden or I would say bronze handcuffs to what may turn out to be  a less than ideal job.  As they say all that glitters isn't gold.

The recruiters are salespeople and may make lies and broken promises.  Talking to others who work there and reading thru nursing reviews on glassdoor & indeed will give you a more honest assessment of things.  However if you have worked LTC you are already used to working in tough conditions and you must like working with the elderly and chronically disabled so I'm sure you could accept a med-surg job and do OK and transfer later.  Also your LPN experience will definitely make for a smoother RN transition.

I wish you success in your new nursing field!

Really sound advice!  Thank you for this.  I will definitely look on Glassdoor to see current and past employee reviews for the hospital and specific units.  I'm more-so leaning towards not accepting any contracts as long as this remains an option so that I make the right decision for myself.  

Thanks again for all the great advice here!