Ballad Health announces many initiatives to keep employees after vaccine mandate

Published 3:23 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

With workforce challenges heightened due to COVID vaccinate mandates, Ballad Health officials are redoubling efforts to retain employees.

“It’s hard to find people right now, so a key is, do everything we can to lean in on retention, so we don’t lose more people,” Ballad CEO and President Alan Levine this week. “At the same time, we do everything we can to try to fill those positions in the near-term.”

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The system has more than 13,800 employees and this week announced that less than 1% of its workforce, or 63 employees, were suspended due to lack of compliance with the vaccine mandates.

As administrators work through that process, they continue to seek ways to improve retention. The first of these initiatives is affordable childcare. The system has two childcare centers, one in Johnson City and Elizabethton, but plans to build as many as 11 more centers across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

“An overwhelming number of women who left the workforce have done so because they’ve been forced to choose between caring for their children or working,” Levine said Wednesday. “We think this is something that can help people come back or help us retain people.

“One wrote me an email saying she was considering actually leaving to go full-time stay at home,” Levine said. “She said ‘this gives me a chance to stay and keep working.”

Ballad also announced an initiative to help college-aged workers within their system, providing scholarships for students seeking higher education in the clinical field. Ballad will cover 100% of the cost for tuition, fees and books for students pursuing an initial degree in nursing, imaging, medical technology, surgical technology and catheterization lab technology, based on the program they are pursuing.

“We think this helps to rebuild the pipeline, and it also gives our team members a chance to expand their professional opportunities,” Levine said.

Ballad is also introducing a referral plan for their employees. Employees are eligible to receive up to a $2,500 bonus for referring experienced RNs who become employees, $1,500 for experienced LPNs, RTs, surgical technologists, and medical technicians; and $500 for certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, and certified medical assistants.

The health system will also give their employees the option to cash out their paid time off, giving them an opportunity to get up to 40 hours worth of salary with a payout in May.

One of the final incentives mentioned on Wednesday included a bonus for those Ballad Employees who worked over 60 hours in a pay period during the surge of COVID-19 omicron or delta variants. These employees will receive a bonus in two parts, one part in March and one part in July as a way to retain staff through the coming months.