Last September, when Jacqui Rum left her nursing position at Los Robles Regional Medical Center due to the demanding workload and inadequate staffing, she paid a steep price: she received a $2,000 training expense charge from her former employer.
When Rum accepted the position at the hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, run by HCA Healthcare, the biggest for-profit hospital chain in the country, she was obliged to sign a contract that was tied to the payment.
Rum agreed to reimburse the hospital for the cost of her training if she left or was fired before her two-year contract was up, which is normal for entry-level nurses working at HCA hospitals and is increasingly becoming routine for other health systems.
Notwithstanding the agreement, Rum claimed she left the job after 13 months due to the stress on her body and mind. She cited the staffing as being so low that she frequently could not take even a 30-minute break during her 12-hour shifts.
Due to her departure, a collection agency working for HCA has written her seven letters since October demanding payment for the final $2,000 in training charges the hospital claims she owes and threatening to charge her interest and legal fees.
Rum claimed that despite receiving around 10 weeks of training and mentoring, the $4,000 the hospital assigned to it fell short of what she had anticipated.
She had little time to spend learning in-person classes that covered content she had already studied in nursing school or that wasn’t pertinent to her specialty.
US Nurses Face Significant Amount of Debt
The repayment requirement, according to hospitals, is required to assist them to recoup their investment in teaching recent nursing school graduates and to encourage them to stay in a competitive job market.
Yet, other nurses claim that the system has made them feel imprisoned in their positions and made them unwilling to speak out against unsafe working conditions for fear of being fired and being forced to pay off large sums of money.
According to a statement from HCA, nurse educators created the company’s programs as a significant investment in our employees and to show our dedication to the advancement of the nursing profession.
The 184-bed hospital system claimed that the program also enables nurses to acquire training in a variety of specialties, including cancer, surgical services, critical care, and pediatrics. Additionally, it offers nurses the chance to move to one of its other institutions.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken note of the practice and started looking into the several types of debt that firms create for their employees through training programs in September.
As per CFPB spokesperson, the organization is currently analyzing training repayment schemes as a sort of debt product being sold to workers, comparable to a student loan, and determining whether the organization should take further control measures.