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Since increasing hiring bonus, state sees more nurse hires and interest at its two mental health hospitals

Nursing students
Posted at 1:55 PM, May 12, 2023

DENVER — Months ago, the state of Colorado began offering nurses a $14,000 hiring bonus if they went to work at one of its two psychiatric hospitals, a move that has proven to be successful.

In all of 2022, the state of Colorado was only able to hire four nurses for its two psychiatric hospitals. This year, four nurse hires have already been made and another 39 nurses are in various stages of the hiring process.

Nursing students

Local News

Mental health nurses can earn a $14K hiring bonus in Colorado

Stephanie Butzer
12:22 PM, Mar 15, 2023

Officials within the state decided they needed to increase the hiring bonus amount because of the dramatic need for more nurses at its two psychiatric hospitals.

"What's important to understand is that as a result of the pandemic, we are operating at over 40% vacancy at those hospitals," said Leora Joseph, the director for the Office of Civil and Forensic Mental Health.

At its mental health hospital in Fort Logan, an entire wing of the hospital sits empty, not because there aren't patients to fill it, but rather there are not enough nurses to staff it.

The beds in that unit are untouched, the chairs have never been sat in either.

It's a similar case at the mental health hospital in Pueblo. Between the two hospitals, there's a need for about 250 nurses, according to Joseph.

Earlier this year, the hiring bonus was set at $7,000, which is when Matthew Parham took the job.

He's a nightshift nursing supervisor at the Fort Logan hospital. He made the transition from an emergency room to a mental healthcare setting not only because of the hiring, but because of the kind of care he's giving now.

Colorado's two psychiatric hospitals offer $14,000 signing bonuses to work there

"I like seeing that ongoing care. I like having kind of a little bit of the reward of seeing somebody brought back to a sustainable state and hopefully, being able to get back out to the community and live, you know, whatever normal life they can," Parham said.

It's not an easy job, but it's one Parham said he finds fulfilling and one that needs more people like him now.

"I think that it takes a unique perspective, I think it takes somebody that has a calling for this type of work," he said.

Because as long as the rooms are empty, with no nurses to staff them, those empty beds can't be filled with patients who need help.

"Think of what we could do with that extra 100 beds, how many more people we can serve," Joseph said.

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