In an effort to retain nurses by making their pay more competitive, Allegheny Health Network announced Tuesday plans to boost wages for nonunion nursing staff.
The pay raises are part of $92 million for increased pay and workplace enhancements the network plans for this year.
“You always want to maintain a very competitive workplace within the market for employees at every level,” said Dan Laurent, AHN spokesman. “That has become more important in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic and significant staffing challenges that all hospitals are facing around the country at this time.”
The health system will boost minimum base salaries to $30 per hour for caregivers, including nonunion bedside nurses, and increase earnings for existing nurses with pay differentials between levels of experience.
The average minimum salary for nurses was about $28 an hour across the board for union and nonunion nurses, Laurent said.
In addition to the pay rates for bedside nurses, AHN will begin a tuition or loan forgiveness program for May graduates of the network’s two nursing schools — the West Penn School of Nursing in Bloomfield and the Citizens School of Nursing at the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer — as long as the graduates agree to work within the network for at least three years after graduation.
Of the health system’s 21,000 employees, about 14,800 are nonunion employees who will benefit from AHN’s boost, he said.
The rest of the employees are unionized workers, physicians and contract workers, Laurent said.
The health system’s 14 hospitals each have different labor pools, some with unionized workers, some without, he said.
AHN is bargaining with its unions on wage increases, Laurent said.
“Union members at AHN have been advocating for significant investments in retention efforts to address the staffing crisis affecting our system and the entire industry,” said Katrina Rectenwald, president of the nurse chapter of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood .
“Our union has led the way with the market-leading wages and benefits we’ve negotiated across AHN,” she said. “We’re glad to see AHN leadership is taking some important steps to improve pay and benefits for employees, and we believe even more investment is needed given the tremendous pressures of providing care through the pandemic.”
Wages for nurses have been increasing across the state, according to Wayne E. Reich Jr., CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.
For the foreseeable future, he expects to see salary increases for nurses, especially bedside nurses, who have been immersed in the onslaught of covid-19 patients.
“Nurses are burned out and leaving hospitals to go into travel nursing, where they can earn about $20 more an hour,” Reich said.
In the future, AHN wants to increase the minimum starting salary rate for all AHN employees.
“The challenges that pandemic health care organizations have experienced during the pandemic have only further reinforced how incredibly important our amazing, selfless caregivers are to the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” said Cynthia Hundorfean, AHN president and CEO.
Allegheny Health Network is the provider arm of parent company Highmark Health, which includes Highmark insurance and other businesses.
The network operates 14 hospitals in the region, among them Allegheny General Hospital, Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison and Neighborhood Hospitals in Harmar and Hempfield.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .