WILKES-BARRE — Two health care providers announced major recruitment efforts within a month of each other, bringing more than 300 nursing and support staff jobs to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Officials at Commonwealth Health and Geisinger state a nationwide nursing shortage in addition to unprecedented growth at their respective facilities are factors in the recruitment efforts.
Commonwealth Health announced Wednesday plans to hire about 160 nurses and additional support staff at several hospitals this year, including Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
Bob Hoffman, chief nursing officer at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, said there are about 50 to 60 nursing positions available in Wilkes-Barre alone, and he’s hoping to fill those spots in the next six to eight months.
The $40 million tower project under way at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital will add 34 critical care beds to the facility.
“We’ve expanded our infusion services, and we’re trying to move to all private rooms, which takes more staff,” said Hoffman.
The increased staffing coincides with department improvements, expanded service at all six of the company’s local hospitals and recent infrastructure improvements in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. In addition to projects at General Hospital, Regional Hospital of Scranton is constructing a $15 million home for its Heart & Vascular Institute, and Moses Taylor recently invested $15 million in upgrades and expansions.
Hoffman said many of the positions available are in specialty departments, and Commonwealth Health offers a program in which nurses can get certified in certain specialties while employed.
He also said despite the number of registered nursing programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania, class sizes can be small and not all students are based locally, which can make hiring new graduates difficult.
Geisinger announced the recruitment of 150 nurses last month, with positions available for recent graduates and experienced nurses, in offices and hospitals in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
Angelo Venditti, RN, MBA, chief nursing officer of Geisinger Northeast, said changes in legislation concerning health care in recent years has given more people access to care than ever before.
“We’re expanding every segment,” he said. “These positions are hospital-based and clinic-based, and we’re experiencing growth in our home health and long-term care facilities.”
Venditti said since the recruitment effort was announced Jan. 17, about 50 nurses have committed to work at Geisinger once they graduate in June from area colleges and universities.
He hopes to see 75 percent of the positions filled by summer, but said 150 registered nurse positions are just a starting point. Venditti said all departments throughout Geisinger are experiencing growth, from nurse’s aids to transportation, so “people should check every day” for new positions available.
Both organizations said their wage and benefits packages are competitive for the market. Commonwealth Health offers additional training for nurses as well as generous healthcare incentives.
“On the hospital side, if you need care across any of the CHS facilities, you’re really not charged anything,” said Hoffman.
At Geisinger, Venditti said some of the hiring incentives include an up to $15,000 bonus for experienced nurses.
“Those nurses who still have student loans can take advantage of our loan forgiveness programs,” he said.
In the last decade, Geisinger has grown from two to 12 hospitals, expanded its service area from 30 to 45 counties and nearly tripled its number of employees, according to a statement released by Geisinger. The health system has filled 444 new positions since July 1, 2016.
According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton area experienced the largest job growth in the education and health services area in December.
Wico van Genderen, president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the great strides being made locally in the healthcare sector will continue in the future.
“NEPA is nationally known for its dedicated and highly productive workforce, work ethic and great cost of living metrics. In addition, the investments being made by healthcare businesses along with the robust healthcare curriculums of our local colleges, give us a strong foundation for growth,” he said. “As the momentum builds in this sector, I expect to see more announcements much like those made by Commonwealth Health and Geisinger.”