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Nursing recruitment

5 key strategies to recruit millennial nurses                     

BY: John Roszkowski on August 21, 2017

Healthcare systems must be proactive to attract younger millennial nurses.

With large numbers older workers retiring and nurses in high demand, nurse recruiters, hospital administrators and others involved in the hiring process must be proactive to attract younger millennial nurses.

“[Millennials are] the future of the workforce,” said Carol McDaniel, director of talent acquisition at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“Through sheer numbers, millennials can exert a lot of pressure on a healthcare facility, institution or organization,” added Jaciel Keltgen, PhD, an assistant professor at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., who focuses on research about millennials in the workforce. “And if they (organizations) right away have a dialogue with their incoming personnel, they will be able to adjust to the needs and wants of new employees. Millennials are the largest generation in the workplace right now. What they believe matters.”

A Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that as of 2015, more than one-third of U.S. workers, 53.5 million, were millennials. Millennials, between the ages of 19 and 36 in 2017, now surpass Generation X as the largest portion of the U.S. workforce.

So what are these nurses looking for and what works for bringing them on board? Here are five key things millennial nurses are looking for when searching for jobs in the healthcare field.

Offer career opportunities with growth tracks

“Millennials want opportunities for growth,” said Harriet R. Feldman, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of the College of Health Professions and the Lienhard School of Nursing, Pace University in New York. “They also want to help serve people.”

Feldman indicated millennial nurses are attracted to Magnet-designated hospitals because these facilities offer nurses an opportunity to make decisions, be part of a team and have more autonomy. Those hospitals typically also offer learning opportunities and career ladders.

McDaniel agreed millennial nurses are seeking opportunities for career growth and continuing their higher education. Many of her new hires continue in a master’s program while starting a new job. The hospital offers tuition reimbursement and is supportive with scheduling around school assignments. It also provides continued opportunities for nurses with master’s or doctoral degrees to work at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, according to McDaniel.

Kate Christmas, RN, senior talent sourcing specialist at SCL Health in Broomfield, Colo., said most millennial nurses want an organization that values education and upward mobility, and they want to become leaders.

“They are very goal oriented and want to advance in their careers,” she said.

Attractive employee benefit plans help

Millennials also are interested in the benefits facilities can offer.

Many new nurses are coming out of school in debt. That could make a hospital offering college loan forgiveness quite attractive, according to Christmas.

Monetary concerns and student debt are a reality, Keltgen added. Among the benefits she finds millennials seek are signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, tuition assistance, help with childcare, and health insurance benefits for their partners and their families.

Millennial nurses also want work-life balance, Christmas, Keltgen and Feldman said. “They are not just working to advance or make a difference; they want fulfilling lives,” Christmas said.

Keltgen said employers need to be cognizant of how important flexibility is to this generation. New nurses not only want amenities such as onsite fitness centers to work out, but also the time to visit it. They want time to enjoy life, not spend all of their time working.

Draw in millennials with residency programs

Millennial nurses coming out of BSN programs want to be hired into a residency program, according to Feldman.

“They are looking for ways to have some mentoring on their first job,” Feldman said. “Most have been precepted in their fourth semester and want to start their first job with mentoring and learning experiences.”

More and more hospitals have established residencies, Feldman said. These programs combine additional classroom education with hands-on experiences, simulation and support.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s offers a two-year transition-to-practice residency program to nurses completing a BSN program. It teaches new graduates how to interact with others on the healthcare team, patients and families. New nurses are assigned a mentor and work on a project. Nurses must stay for two years. The hospital has doubled the size of its program from 15 to 30 new graduates.

“We invest a lot of time, money and effort into marketing our residency program, because we want the best of the best,” McDaniel said. “We are helping [them] become professional nurses.”

Foster a collaborative culture

Millennials work well on a team and want to belong and feel valued.

“Collaboration is the key word for them,” McDaniel added. “They have a lot of opinions and want their opinions heard.”

Keltgen calls that sharing of their knowledge and thoughts “reverse mentoring.”

“The seasoned nurses help them adjust to the culture, life beyond college and workplace realities,” Keltgen said. “The younger nurses like to do some training about the advances and research they learned about in college. Both the younger nurses and older nurses feel valued.”

Feldman agreed millennial nurses want to join a team that welcomes their participation and values their opinions. These younger nurses are receptive to establishing their careers in outpatient or home health settings as more healthcare delivery moves to community settings, she said.

Millennial nurses also want to be involved in research projects, advancing the profession’s knowledge base and coming up with new and better ways to provide care, McDaniel and Christmas both noted.

Communicate with millennials through technology

Millennial nurses are technologically savvy. They have used the internet and smart phones nearly their entire lives and feel at ease communicating on these devices.

Social media plays a role in millennials’ lives. Hospitals often will post items of interest to this audience.

The Facebook page at Johns Hopkins All Children’s features fun activities and inspiring stories of nurses that are going on at the hospital. Postings show nurses dancing with children on Fridays. Another social post features a nurse talking about how her work makes her smile and how caring for her patients doesn’t even seem like work.

Nurses applying at All Children’s typically ask about different types of technology that are used at the hospital, according to McDaniel. She said millennial nurses are comfortable using a wide variety of technologies, including video interviewing.

“They love the technology,” Christmas added.

Christmas finds these nurses are attracted to smart rooms, hybrid operating rooms, cardiovascular catheter labs, interventional radiology and other high-technology areas. “They thrive in those areas,” she added.


Freelance writer Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, contributed to the writing and research of this article. 


John Roszkowski

John Roszkowski is content manager of healthcare recruitment for the Advertising Solutions division at OnCourse Learning. He creates and manages content for the Nursing Recruitment Source blog, newsletters and Digital Resource Guides. He has developed content for healthcare and financial services at OnCourse Learning for the past four years. He has more than 25 years of writing and editing experience and previously worked at weekly and daily newspapers.