choosing a healthcare career
Career Resources

How to Evaluate a New Healthcare Staff Job

With ongoing healthcare staff shortages, especially among nurses, there are lots of staff jobs available right now. Whether you’re a recent nursing school graduate or an established healthcare professional contemplating a career change, it’s crucial to evaluate each job offer to ensure the position is the right fit for you and your career goals. When you receive a staff job offer, take your time reviewing and evaluating the various components based on what’s most important to you. It’s also smart to step back to fully understand what’s being offered, how it measures up to your expectations, and whether the offer provides a fair deal. Use these tips to evaluate a new healthcare staff job to confidently make a sound decision about the position.

Set Expectations Beforehand

Before you begin evaluating a new healthcare staff position, decide what matters most to you to firmly cement your preferences and career objectives. This helps you have a better idea of what type of job will help you best meet your goals while also being fulfilling on a personal level.

Prioritize your expectations to visualize what’s most important to you. While some individuals may prioritize salary over any other consideration, others may prefer a balance between having a decent salary and career advancement opportunities. Understanding your priorities helps you determine what you want out of a job so you can easily see when a job offer is missing vital components. 

Although you might not get everything you desire from a certain position, you can learn what matters enough that you’re willing to negotiate for it and what you can live without and still be happy in the job. Overall, you’ll know whether to seriously consider the staff position or wait until you get an offer that has more of the components that matter most to you.

Salary Considerations

For many people, salary is their highest priority and it’s certainly one of the most important components of any job offer. Make sure the position you’re being offered is competitive geographically, especially if the job requires you to relocate. If you’re relocating, ask if the facility covers relocation expenses, which can add up quickly.

Salary can greatly vary based on location. What’s considered a highly competitive wage in one state might not be in another. Also, determine whether you bring any highly desirable skills to the table that should influence your base salary. Taking a job that undervalues your education and skills may set you up for being lowballed in future positions based on your low current salary. Check Vivian Health’s comprehensive salary calculator to ensure a position pays what you deserve and provides a livable wage for the area.

Ask a potential employer about incentives that can boost your salary initially and down the road, such as sign-on bonuses and incentives for receiving advanced education, additional training, and/or professional certifications. It’s also a good time to find out how many hours per week and what schedule you’re expected to work to earn the salary being offered. Ask how overtime is handled, such as whether the facility has mandatory overtime, how frequently overtime is available and/or required, and how much you’re paid for overtime. You can also ask about any incentive the facility is providing to staff to work extra shifts when they are very short-staffed. Also, don’t overlook details on shift differentials and holiday pay. All these factors can impact what you actually earn compared to what’s being offered.

Benefits Packages

A job offer with a high salary but a weak benefits package may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Good benefits packages can greatly enhance average salaries and often include numerous components to evaluate. Healthcare staff often have access to a wealth of employee benefits, which can include various types of insurance, retirement savings plans, education reimbursements, and vacation and other forms of paid time off (PTO), among others.

Full-time staff members are usually eligible for comprehensive health, dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits. Plus, basic life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, short-term and long-term disability, flexible spending accounts, and wellness programs.

Most healthcare institutions offer some type of tuition reimbursement for permanent staff, which can be an important part of the evaluation process for new graduates or healthcare professionals who intend to get advanced degrees and want tuition assistance/reimbursement. Many facilities pay 100% of tuition reimbursement for registered nurses who pursue continued education in a specialized area and some even offer reimbursement for advanced certifications.

Full-time healthcare staff may be able to save for retirement with 401K or 403b options. They determine how much they want deducted from their pay each period to be deposited into their retirement funds. Facilities may fully match these contributions or match a certain percentage. Many organizations also allow workers to take their retirement with them if they change jobs once they’ve become fully vested.

PTO is generally offered for full-time and part-time employees, which covers sick days and vacation time. Workers accrue a certain amount of time for each hour worked and may be able to request monetary compensation in lieu of using accumulated vacation hours. Healthcare facilities also usually offer paid family leave, which isn’t deducted from earned PTO.

Location Issues

Facility location is a crucial aspect of evaluating a permanent staff position because you’ll likely be in this location for a lengthy period of time. Some of the highest-paying nursing staff locations are also some of the ones with the highest cost of living. During the second quarter of 2021, the top five states with the highest cost of living were Hawaii, New York, California, Massachusetts and Oregon. The five states with the lowest cost of living were Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Arkansas. In general, a competitive wage in the Midwest may not even be a livable wage in the Northeast.

Besides cost-of-living considerations, you also want to evaluate job locations based on the type of area you want to live in and potentially raise a family. Another location consideration is where your home is located relative to the facility. Is it going to require a long daily commute that will become inconvenient after an extended period? If you drive to work, is there plenty of free parking available or is paid parking going to add to your commuting expenses? If you take public transportation, is there convenient access from home and work? If the position requires you to be on-call, where you live can become an even bigger issue.

Integris Baptist Medical Center OKC

Facility Evaluation

Healthcare facilities also offer various intangibles that can influence how much you might enjoy a new staff job. For nurses, issues like patient care structure and average nurse-to-patient ratios can be just as important as compensation and should be on your priority list. California has excellent ratio laws but a much higher cost of living, which is why you must carefully evaluate every aspect of a new job. 

If possible, talk to current staff members in positions like the one you’ve been offered to learn the true realities of the work environment, not just the company line. Find out if they feel respected and supported by the organization. Learning more about employee engagement and patient satisfaction scores can go a long way in educating you on the facility’s overall atmosphere. Also, ask about training opportunities, job shadowing, and mentorship programs to determine if the facility and the position provide you with opportunities to grow.

Many facilities are working on ways to keep their staff. You can ask about any retention initiatives that the facility or unit has implemented to prevent staff from leaving. This can be a great insight into the culture of the unit and how far the facility is willing to go to let their staff know they are important. 

Other Perks

Unlike travel healthcare workers who work for a facility for limited periods, permanent staff nurses and allied health professionals may stay with the same facility for their entire careers. Depending on where you are in your life and career, you may have numerous other considerations when evaluating a new healthcare staff job.

Work-life balance may be essential to you if you want to spend time with a significant other or you’re raising a family and want to be there for your children. A good work-life balance allows you to enjoy your time with others and still be able to come to work recharged and ready to effectively contribute to the team.

To help you pursue your career while also enjoying personal and emotional satisfaction, healthcare facilities may offer perks to help you bridge the gap. Flexible scheduling may be an option, depending on your role. On-site childcare might be offered to make daycare more convenient and cost-effective. Some facilities even offer adoption assistance, homeownership programs, and transportation perks for carpooling or taking public transit to lure top candidates to their open positions.

Once you’ve decided a job is right for you, consider negotiating for better compensation and/or benefits. While this part of the process might stress you out, it’s a common practice. When asked about your salary expectations, a great answer can be, “Well, since I bring xyz…(name your skills and experience) to the table, what is that worth to you?”. This avoids answering with a direct number and highlights your strengths. However, if you feel the facility has made a generous offer that meets or mostly meets your expectations and you really want the position, take the offer on the table. Alternatively, if you feel there’s some wiggle room, negotiate. If you have a lot of experience, ask if there is a cap on the salary. You can always keep looking if they turn down your counteroffer and their offer simply doesn’t work for you. 

Compare lucrative healthcare positions by browsing permanent staff postings at top facilities around the nation on Vivian Health.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Senior Editor & All-Around Wordsmith. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other healthcare professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, local contract and per diem positions faster and easier than ever.

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