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Nurse education

How to attract and advertise to nursing students

BY: Eileen Williamson on February 21, 2018

Nursing is more competitive than ever, and the competition is reaching beyond the job market and into nursing schools.

As a growing number of baby boomers retire, many millennials are choosing nursing as a career. Agencies — such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — project  registered nurse jobs will grow faster than other occupations through 2018, which means schools will need more nursing students.

Nursing student applications outnumber available seats and new healthcare legislation, such as the New York State BSN in 10, are demanding nurses have more education and technical skills.

Nurses are seeing education more as a lifetime pursuit than just a degree or license. Many are moving beyond the associate and bachelor’s degrees to master’s and doctorates, increasing the demand on colleges and universities to provide more degree programs.

No longer is the hospital the “sun” at the center of the care universe. There are many other “planets” for nurses to choose from and the opportunities to increase their education and take on new roles are unlimited. As a nursing student recruiter, you need to help schools respond to this new phenomenon.

nursing student

Your role as a nursing student recruiter

You work hard to market and advertise your programs to recruit and retain the best students. Applications arrive in large numbers, and each one is unique. You probably have many different nurses to interview. But are you attracting a diverse group of candidates?

Students are no longer generic. Their ages and origins are different — they speak different languages, and have different beliefs, practices and backgrounds. They may be just out of high school or starting a second career, and it’s up to you to create advertising that reaches as many of them as possible.

Applicants don’t want to communicate with a fax machine or postal address, so make your intake process as responsive, hands-on and personal as possible with email, face-to-face events and social media outreach.

According to a 2017 American Association of Colleges of Nursing survey, average job offer rates are 73% for students graduating with a bachelor of science in nursing degree and 78% for students graduating with an entry-level master of science in nursing degree. The survey further breaks down the percentages according to region of the nation, where there are some stark differences related to location.

But diversity doesn’t stop at the state in which students live. Students who are re-entering the nursing workforce have nursing skills, for example, but they also have goals, objectives and additional direction and focus.

You know as they advance their education they will help move the profession forward. Accelerated second-degree bachelor of science in nursing program applicants, for example, can share their experiences with their classmates and add dimension to class discussions.

You do many different things to welcome students and continue to accommodate them throughout the program. Perhaps you work with faculty on something special to present during National Nurses Week — something that includes a celebration of the diversity of your student population. You plan this in advance and advertise it or share it in a newsletter for other nurses to see.

Students want faculty who recognize they’re not only students, but also people with other lives at home and at their workplaces. So when one of their facilities receives Joint Commission accreditation, achieves Magnet status or receives a DAISY Award, celebrate that achievement in class.

You work hard to be the school and the program with the best reputation because you know applicants want to be part of programs well known and considered great. You work with faculty to provide a variety of clinical placements you know will help students who are struggling to balance school, work and personal lives.

10 questions to help you better target your advertising

  1. Is your advertising fully promoting the strengths of your school, faculty and programs?
  2. Are your name and brand strong and well known and your logo and tagline recognizable?
  3. Do your marketing statistics show you’re attracting the brightest and best applicants?
  4. Are your advertising campaigns reaching the broadest nursing audience possible?
  5. Does your advertising tell nurses why they should choose and apply to your degree programs?
  6. Would applicants rate your current application process as user-friendly and personal?
  7. Is your social media program broad and diverse enough to draw from all prospective students?
  8. Is your website user-friendly and does it give applicants all the information they need?
  9. Are your applicants aware of the accreditation your school and programs have received?
  10. Do you use various media to tell prospective students about your school and program?

These are just a few things you can do in your role as a nursing program recruiter. Tell me more by sharing some of the initiatives you have under way for applicants and students at your school at ewilliamson@oncourselearning.com.

Your colleagues would love to hear from you.

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Eileen Williamson

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, is a former senior vice president and chief nurse executive at OnCourse Learning, where she led nursing programs and initiatives. She continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. 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.