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St. Charles Health System offers financial incentives in bid to attract more nurses

'From the entire health system, our turnover is definitely up'

BEND Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System is experiencing a severe nursing and staffing shortage, which has limited the scope of care they can provide for patients.

“From the entire health system, our turnover is definitely up," Vice President of Human Resources Rebecca Berry said Wednesday.

Hospital officials said they are working on ways to accommodate for the influx of patients, but they may not be be able to serve all of them in the convenience of the communities where they live -- or even in Central Oregon. 

“Transferring patients out of the region is not what we want to do. We want people to be able to have their health care locally," said St. Charles Bend Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Robinson.

Due to lack of bed availability, the hospital officials said Wednesday they are addressing their shortage of beds by utilizing the other hospital locations in Redmond, Madras and Prineville.

As of Tuesday, the hospital scaled back and delayed elective surgeries to have more available beds, but it didn’t help much.

“We were still struggling, on day of surgery, to have a bed available,” Robinson said.

Patients with less-serious surgeries have moved down on the priority list.

“If it isn’t a life-or-death situation that the patient could be in immediate danger within like the next six hours, it’s something that could be rescheduled," Robinson said.

She added that the other locations are also at capacity, so they’re continuing to look for internal solutions.

Right now, the hospital system is working with an agency to receive aid from traveling nurses. 

“But the length of their assignment varies -- can be six weeks, 10 weeks, 13 weeks," Robinson said.

They’ve also initiated a referral program to encourage roughly 246 caregivers employed by the hospital to submit a referral and in return receive $750 if the referral is hired. 

The hospital officials say they also recognize the housing and day care struggles that make it hard for nurses to relocate. They're offering a $10,000 signing bonus to reduce financial stress and attract more nurses.

“Where we’ve seen interest is in new nurse graduates that are just coming out of college," Berry said.

In order to prepare the licensed graduates to care for patients, the hospital is running two new nurse residency programs to help acclimate the graduates from their traditional schooling into practical application. The training sessions are broken into three cohorts, with one starting in August, another in September, and a third which will be added by the end of the year.

Berry said she hopes this will provide some promising results.

With the influx of patients, some coming in from delayed care and then having to stay for longer periods of time, and having fewer nurses, hospital officials hope the financial incentives pave the way for greater stability.

"We have seen more retirements over the last two years that what historically we have seen," Berry said.

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.



    1. Yes. Something is missing in this discussion. Are the nurses just quitting with no plan or are they somehow able to exist on all the government unemployment programs? I wish some nurses would chime in and tell us what is really going on.

    2. 1) if they’re over 50 they likely own their house
      2) if they’re over 50 they likely have a fat 401k
      3) they’re likely tired of taking care of people that don’t give a rip
      4) if they’re over 50 and the children of a responsible generation that trained people to get vaccinated etc, they’re likely to inherit a sizable estate from their responsible parents to supplement their 401k

  1. Until St. Charles tends to it’s other issues of mistreated staff and unfavorable work conditions, keeping staff will continue to be an issue. You can bait them in but it isn’t the fix you’re looking for.

  2. Let’s look at the metrics –

    Oregon, as of 2021 data, is rated at 14th in the nation for having the lowest nurse-to-state population coverage.

    Notice St. Charles does not clarify how many licensed practical nurses (LPNs) it utilizes in conjunction with its registered nurse (RN) population. LPNs have long been leaned on to do the nuts and bolts of nursing as they are, as often as not, as qualified or more so than RNs but are paid less for the same work.

    Driving the retirements and early retirements of registered nurses (RNs), again per the data, is this.

    “Insufficient staffing is raising the stress level of nurses, impacting job satisfaction, and driving many nurses to leave the profession.

    “In the July 2017 issue of BMJ Quality & Safety, the international journal of healthcare improvement, Dr. Linda Aiken and her colleagues released findings from a study of acute care hospitals in Belgium, England, Finland, Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland, which found that a greater proportion of professional nurses at the bedside is associated with better outcomes for patients and nurses. Reducing nursing skill mix by adding assistive personnel without professional nurse qualifications may contribute to preventable deaths, erode care quality, and contribute to nurse shortages.

    “In the March 2005 issue of Nursing Economic$, Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues found that more than 75% of RNs believe the nursing shortage presents a major problem for the quality of their work life, the quality of patient care, and the amount of time nurses can spend with patients. Looking forward, almost all surveyed nurses see the shortage in the future as a catalyst for increasing stress on nurses (98%), lowering patient care quality (93%) and causing nurses to leave the profession (93%).”

    Both the RN and LPN populations have experienced intense “burn-out” the past two years due to COVID 19 and now its variants. An oft mentioned factor in “burn-out” is the archaic attitudes and behaviors of hospital mid and upper level management that focuses (and indeed their jobs depend upon) “filling empty beds”, or putting $$ over all other factors / considerations when it comes to their workforce.

    Human Resources knows all the above but as HR is a tool of Management the “solution” is couched in seeking to attract new cannon fodder by the lure of bonus money as opposed to fixing / repairing or initiating new internal work attitudes and relationships with Administration.

    And so it goes.

  3. They are moving out of Oregon and to red states to better the quality of life for their families. Everyone moves to improve their quality of life. Cali folks move here because we are a step above Cali, Oregonian move out of Oregon to more freedom loving states, and peole in freedom loving states just stay where their at and complain about us moving to their state and infecting their way of life. I guess paradise is all in the eye of the beholder right?

    1. New news replaces day-old news in top stories all the time, every day. We don’t keep the same story atop the site for long – why would folks return? It is linked in this article and is still on the site, of course.

  4. $10,000 sign up bonus for new nurses but they can’t give long time employees a proper raise even if you been there for years. 3% a year is a joke !

  5. Ive been affiliated with that organization for 15 years (my loved one is a nurse). The four women pleading for nurses are registered RN’s – nurse managers. They will not do patient care and make more money than a floor nurse. Here’s a novel idea. Pitch in! Get off your butt and nurse. There are WAY to many managerial positions at St Charles that make ridiculously high salaries. Ask CEO Sluka what he makes? He’s useless. A physician on staff can do his job for a small stipend and do a far better job with real working knowledge.

    How about you pay loyal nurses retention bonuses instead of giving 10K signing bonuses. Eliminate 90% of you managerial positions for nurses and have them cross train and make patient care mandatory for any managerial nurse. They salary you pay nurses is pathetic. Once you subtract out mandatory union dues (even if they don’t want to be in union), and taxes, a nurse has a very hard time finding housing they can afford in Bend. This is why you have nursing issues. This is perhaps why you have 300 openings. Oh, and hiring and abusing a newbie bc they don’t know better is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. They are fine with this, even though it is horrible for patient care. You need seasoned , vested, nurses and physicians to oversee the newbies.

    They treat their physicians the same. Some doctors they pay less than minimal wage to take call. Most people do not know this.

    Here’s an idea. Fire Sluka and 90% of your useless “managers”. Let the physicians and nurses run the hospital. Distribute all that money you waste on those useless managerial positions to nurses and physicians and working staff. Everything will magically improve at St Charles. And you will not have people fleeing that place in droves.

    ITs time for another hospital and competition for St Charles.

    1. Since the solutions are so simple, perhaps you should start another hospital. I’m sure the physicians and nurses you would hire could handle their With all the free time they must have, your physicians and nurses could easily run the place. I

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