AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF)- Many industries are still suffering from a shortage of workers. A notable one is the medical field and nurses in particular are in high demand.

Aiken Regional Medical Centers is combating that shortage by holding monthly job fairs throughout the year. And they are increasing their chances by offering up to a $25,000 sign-on bonus for qualified candidates.

Hospital officials hope the extra incentive will encourage more applicants.

Bridget Denzik is the Chief Nursing Officer at Aiken Regional. She explained that there are a few reasons why there is a shortage of nursing staff.

“I think it’s really a multitude of different things. Number one- we’re having the “Silver Tsunami.” Which means some of our nurses are aging out and they’re retiring. So that’s created a shortage on one end. The other piece is enrollment in nursing schools. And in the state of South Carolina, we have not seen a significant increase in the enrollments in nursing schools.”

NewsChannel 6 checked with Aiken Technical College, University of South Carolina Aiken and Augusta University to find out what the enrollment numbers in those nursing schools have been since 2020.

Augusta University reported that the total of undergraduate nursing students in 2020 was 886. In 2022 those numbers were down by nearly 130, with just 759 students in the program.

Aiken Tech sent numbers of nurses tracking the number of students entering the Generic Track in the Associate Degree in Nursing Program.

In 2020, only 49 of the 77 students that entered the program graduated. That’s a 53.9% completion rate. In 2022, just 39 out of 72 finished the program.

For their Licensed Practical Nursing Program, in 2020 10 out of 24 graduated, while in 2022, 16 out of 31 completed the program.

We did not hear back from USC Aiken at the time this story aired.

With the shortage of nurses, Aiken Regional is pulling out all the stops to bring in new nurses, including extra training for those who just graduated and possible bonuses.

Denzik said they are hoping the extra incentive will encourage more applicants.

“I think sign on bonuses have been in place for a long time in many industries and health care is no different. So, it’s really to be an attractive incentive for individuals that may feel that– may have the qualifications for that specific skill set.”

Aiken Regional’s next hiring event for nurses is Tuesday, February 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. OR every Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the main hospital in Aiken.

Candidates should apply online in advance and come prepared with an updated resume and for on site interviews.

For more information and to view available opportunities, visit aikenregional.com/careers or call (803)641-5630.

Photojournalist: Will Baker.