Ballad announces plan to raise new nursing pay by 25 percent to $30 an hour

Published 10:35 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

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Ballad Health announced this week it will pay new registered nurses $30 to $32 an hour depending on the hospital they serve, after the hospital system’s board approved $33 million for pay increases at its January 30 meeting.
That represents a 25% increase for starting nurse pay in Ballad’s community hospitals, from $24 to $30, and a 19% increase, from $27 to $32 an hour, for starting RNs in the tertiary hospitals. Those include Johnson City Medical Center, Holston Valley Medical Center and Bristol Regional Medical Center. New licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and other clinical staff will also see significant increases from current rates. Starting pay for clinical staff at Ballad’s long-term care facilities will also increase. Many existing staff will get pay raises designed to avoid “pay compression” due to the new starting rates.
“This is a major investment in nursing and other targeted positions, which is truly necessary for us to be able to meet the needs of our patients going forward,” Ballad CEO Alan Levine wrote in an internal email.
Levine noted that labor shortages are impacting several areas at Ballad, but wrote that a nationwide nursing shortage makes those roles top priority, saying nursing shortages have the greatest impact on patient care.
Ballad has seen its nursing turnover rate return to pre-COVID levels (around 15%), below what Levine said is the national average of around 20%. Before listing more than half a dozen initiatives Ballad is involved in to help recruit and retain nurses, Levine wrote that Ballad continues to rely more than it wants to on contract, or travel, nurses.
“(W)hile we have had success filling many open nursing positions, we must stay ahead of it so we can fill as many of the open positions as possible, thus continuing to reduce our reliance on contract labor – something we all want to see continue,” Levine wrote.
Ballad recently partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies for a $15 million investment to create “Ballad Health Academy,” giving high school students an accelerated pathway to healthcare careers.
The system has also worked toward establishing 13 childcare centers (cost $30 million-plus) to meet employee needs and invested $10 million to create a center for nursing advancement at East Tennessee State University.
Ballad officials said more than 5,500 current employees will receive some level of raise.

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