MCALLEN, Texas – South Texas College President Ricardo Solis says he has never heard anything like it before – a hospital offering $25,000 sign on bonuses to students with two-year degrees in respiratory therapy care.

But that is what is happening to such students at STC. Laredo Medical Center, the largest hospital system in Laredo, is offering up to $25,000 in sign-on bonuses for such students, along with other significant perks like tuition reimbursement and loan repayment programs.   

Officials from Laredo Medical Center recently staged a recruiting tour with a mission to recruit the best and brightest students from South Texas College’s Nursing and Allied Health Campus in McAllen.

And now, says Solis, a hospital in Lubbock plans to do something similar. 

“This is a remarkable and astonishing offer from the private sector to our students. I have never seen or heard of it before. A hospital offering $25,000 in sign-on bonuses to our students with a two-year degree. Nobody has offered a sum that big before,” Solis told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service. 

Solis said he has seen and heard of students learning to become registered nurses getting sign-on bonuses, but not as much as $25,000. 

“The hospitals are not even paying the nurses that amount to sign-on. I don’t think anyone else’s is getting this. Not after a two year degree.”

Solis said the closest respiratory therapy care program to the one offered by STC is in San Antonio.

Solis said he is thrilled for the students concerned.

“We are so excited our students have been able to obtain such offers. We have another hospital coming after the same students that are graduating with the respiratory care degree,” Solis said.

“It is a wake up call to all the other hospitals in South Texas to recognize the value of our students. Hopefully, they will cooperate and I am sure they will.”

Asked if the other hospital is offering a similar sign-on bonus, Solis said: “Yes, very similar amounts. We have Laredo and now we have the hospital coming in to recruit our students. The magnificent part of this is they are valuing our students and most importantly our students are getting an opportunity that they would never have. So, we are very excited.”

Solis said in many ways he is sad to see the Valley’s best students leaving the region. 

“We hate to see them go but this is what the college is all about, providing them an opportunity to succeed in life. They can always come back.”

Solis said having hospitals from outside of the Valley come to the region to recruit STC students speaks well of the college.

“It is a testament that the private sector, especially from the outside, recognizes that STC students bring the most value. Regardless of the field, this is not nursing, it is respiratory care… it is incredible. That type of sign-on bonus for a short period demonstrates that our students are very important in all health fields.”

Solis added: “These signing-on bonuses are a testament that STC is providing the utmost quality and the hospitals recognize that. We are here to stay and we are going to be improving and providing even more unique cutting edge health programs.”

A recent news release from STC focused on Dayana Torres, a respiratory therapy student who will be graduating this May. Torres said she is carefully weighing her options about where she will work after college but the recruiting efforts from potential employers has been overwhelming.

A recent visit by Laredo Medical Center proves that the career she has chosen puts her at the forefront of demand in the industry, she said. 

“It is such an amazing feeling to have these opportunities available,” said Torres, who says she is considering her children before she makes her final career choice. 

“Our profession may have been overlooked before, but now with COVID and making our rounds during our clinicals at various hospitals, we have noticed there is a demand everywhere, and it’s an honor to be a part of this growing profession.”

Laredo Medical Center comprises a 326-bed acute care hospital, a freestanding emergency center, two urgent care clinics and multiple outpatient and ambulatory care centers throughout the community.

The STC news release included a quote from Jorge E. Leal, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) and Chief Executive Officer of Laredo Medical Center.

“This was the first time Laredo Medical Center visited South Texas College and we hope to continue collaborating with the college to find students acquiring a degree in specialized health care occupations including respiratory therapy, pharmacy technology, radiologic technology and nursing,” Leal said.

The STC news release also included comments from Dr. Jayson Valerio, dean of nursing and allied health at the college.

“Undoubtedly, South Texas Community College is living up to its mission to provide educational opportunities through excellence in teaching and learning, workforce development, cultural enrichment, community service and regional and global collaborations,” Valerio said. 

“In the Nursing and Health Division, we continue to proactively respond to the health care needs of our growing diverse community, not just in our region but beyond.”

Valerio added: “Unfortunately, one of the many aftermaths of COVID-19 is the shortage of health care professionals, like respiratory therapists. South Texas College will continue to adapt, evolve, and grow to meet the workforce needs of our community.”

Editor’s Note: For more information about STC’s Respiratory Therapy Program, visit nah.southtexascollege.edu/resp/ or call 956-872-3216.


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