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Nurse education

Education incentives give recruiters edge in nursing shortage

BY: Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN on May 9, 2018

Nurse recruiters never want to hear another shortage is coming, but we need to be prepared when it does.

Looking back on the past decade in nursing and healthcare, the predicted nursing shortage comes as no surprise. The signposts were clear:nurse education

  1. The nursing workforce was aging
  2. Baby boomer retirements were increasing
  3. The faculty shortage was growing
  4. Nurses were moving from inpatient to outpatient settings
  5. Many nurses were cutting back from full- to part-time roles

Plan for the present and the future

As recruiters, you understand the importance of planning, keeping abreast of job forecasts and marketplace trends and of being proactive with your marketing and advertising programs. You know it’s too late to start discussing recruitment or hiring incentives when a shortage hits, so you appreciate the need to be in close communication with your facility leadership team before it does.

When you sit down with them to discuss how to deal with what’s ahead, the word “shortage” often is closely followed by “incentive,” in terms of figuring out solutions to threats to your supply of nurses.

In a shortage, demand outweighs supply and the list of incentives for retaining nurses (and enticing new hires) can get rather long and include everything from sign-on bonuses and nursing school loan repayment plans to flexible schedules, competitive salary structures, work-life balance benefits and more.

Among today’s nurses, there’s one perk that seems to be right up at the top of the lists that facilities need to recognize — nurse education.

Education is No. 1 nurse incentive

The need for advanced education is clearer than ever. Discussions among leaders no longer center on whether it’s needed but on how to help nurses get it. Nurses place great value on advanced degrees, continuing education and professional certification. Financial help is a key employee incentive to all of them.

Nurses are pursuing advanced education at all ages and all times in their careers. New grads may be easy to recruit, but when it comes to hiring experienced nurses who still are working on their degrees, recruiting them calls for having education incentives as part of employee benefit packages.

When employers provide financial support to nurses pursuing advanced education, they will recruit and have in their employ nurses who value education and what it can mean to patient care quality — and the employer, the facility and the nurses all benefit.

Educators and recruiters must work together

The nurse leaders in your education department are a great source of information when it comes to perks that attract nurses. Reach out to them and work with them on your programming, marketing and advertising.

Talk with them about the education perks they know nurses are looking for — the ones they think are most valued and needed. Find out about the facility programs the education department has planned for staff in the coming months and include that information in your advertising. Ask them about the educational benefits they see staff using most and the incentives they have benefited most from and why.

Nurses who are job hunting know there are many ways they can continue their education. Innovative marketing and advertising that highlights what your facility is doing to help them do that is crucial.

Working with the education department staff is a two-way street. They have information that will help you plan your recruitment program, but you have information for them as well. Tell them what nurses are inquiring about or requesting in their job interviews regarding education and in-service programs.

Did any of your recent applicants turn down a job offer because your facility’s education perks were not as good as those at other facilities? That’s information the education department and the leadership teams need to know.

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Your special role as a recruiter

You’re the recruitment expert on the leadership team. You know best how to highlight your facility’s benefits and that includes showcasing its emphasis on nurses’ education, career development and lifelong learning. Build your next marketing campaign around that with a “Come work with us and move your education and career ahead” theme.

As the shortage heats up, share what you learned from your educators about their programs and what nurses are looking for when it comes to moving their education ahead.

Stay informed on other special incentives and perks your facility may not be offering, like paying off school loans; flexible schedules to accommodate class times; partnerships with colleges for on-site classes and more.

Make your recruitment voice heard!


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Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is a former senior vice president and chief nurse executive who led nursing programs and initiatives. She continues to write and act as a consultant for Before joining the company in 1998, Williamson was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of the system’s member hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in administration, and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. She also is a board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing.