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Tuition Reimbursement Is a Coveted Job Perk for Nurses


Nearly 80% of millennial nurses and 57% of Gen Xers plan to pursue higher education to boost their salaries.

These findings were reported in a 2017 audience survey reflecting responses from more than 4,500 U.S. nurses about their workplace expectations. Many of those nurses might be paying out-of-pocket for their educations, according to the survey, which shows only 49% of nurses surveyed have the option of receiving tuition reimbursement benefits from their employers. tuition reimbursement Research indicates tuition reimbursement can pay big benefits for the employers that offer the perk, including attracting and retaining top talent -- even improving the bottom line, according to a study conducted last year by Cigna Corporation and the Lumina Foundation. The study, which analyzed the health insurer's education reimbursement program, suggests Cigna's tuition reimbursement benefit offers the corporation a 129% return on investment. About 60% of employers offer tuition assistance programs, according to the Lumina Foundation.

Nursing pushes for higher education

In nursing, the push for higher education has been in the spotlight for years. The Institute of Medicine recommended in 2010 that, by the year 2020, 80% of the RN workforce should be BSN-prepared. In December 2017, New York State was the first U.S. state to pass the BSN in 10 law, which requires all nurses to obtain a BSN within a decade of receiving their RN license unless they are covered by the grandfather clause. Many other states are considering similar legislation and New Jersey has legislation pending. Thomas Young, BSN, RN, CNOR, orthopedic surgery coordinator and OR scheduler at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, knew when he had an associate's degree in nursing having a BSN would open more doors in his nursing career. The University of Maryland's tuition assistance program made going from an RN to a BSN a reality for Young, who said he would not have pursued the higher degree without the financial assistance. [caption id="attachment_51664" align="alignleft" width="150"]tuition reimbursement Thomas Young, RN[/caption]

"I was a little older," he said. "I have a family -- children and a wife at home. And I don't think I would have invested that money back into my education."

Young, who started at University of Maryland as a dishwasher while in high school, has not stopped at the BSN. He's working toward his MSN, with a focus on leadership and administration. Tuition reimbursement is essential for nurses who want to achieve higher levels of education -- whether now or in the future, according to Young.

Tuition reimbursement attracts job candidates

"It's one of the things that I would definitely look for if I were looking for a new job," Young said. "In fact, it's one of the reasons I have not looked for a new job." Cassie O'Malley, MS, RN, OCN, a nurse manager in outpatient oncology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, has tapped the tuition reimbursement benefit twice -- once to earn her master's degree and in her present pursuit of a DNP. O'Malley said she graduated with her master's not owing any money and can comfortably cover the little she might owe after her doctorate. Tuition reimbursement was a big draw for O'Malley, who started at the University of Maryland with her BSN. [caption id="attachment_51665" align="alignright" width="150"]tuition reimbursement Cassie O'Malley, RN[/caption]

"I came out of undergraduate education with some student loans," she said. "When I was looking at an organization to start my career with, I knew that I'd want to go back to school at some point, and I really couldn't see myself affording to be able to add to the student loans that I already accumulated."

O'Malley also sees the value of the benefit from the perspective of a hiring manager. "When I look at hiring new nurses now, I think that's one of my biggest selling points," she said. Jennifer Valentine, recruitment supervisor at Nemours Children's Health System in Wilmington, Delaware, agrees tuition reimbursement is a big deal for nurses looking for work. "For all associates at Nemours, we offer up to $5,250 annually towards tuition reimbursement," Valentine said. "I think the organization is very supportive of growing our associates. One of the ways in which we can support them is through tuition reimbursement." Nemours is a Magnet hospital while Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Fla., is working toward Magnet designation, according to Valentine. Both hospitals are focused on achieving high BSN ratios in nursing and should be well-positioned should BSN in 10 become law in those states, she said. [caption id="attachment_51668" align="alignright" width="150"]tuition reimbursement Sean Elwell, RN[/caption] [caption id="attachment_51663" align="alignleft" width="150"]tuition reimbursement Jennifer Valentine[/caption]

"The [nurse] managers are constantly talking with the nurses to make sure that they realize that they've got the support needed to be able to go on and get their BSN," Valentine said. "Nemours Health System also is very supportive of nurses going on to advanced degrees."

The CNE and director of nursing excellence for Nemours in Children's Health System are both using tuition reimbursement dollars to earn their DNP degrees, according to Valentine. At 33, Sean Elwell, MSN, RN, NE-BC, TCRN, EMT, director of trauma and critical care transport at Nemours has an advanced degree and more -- thanks, in part, to tuition reimbursement.

"I've had the opportunity to utilize it from a personal standpoint, but I've also encouraged it among my team," said Elwell, who started

Content courtesy of King University.