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Nursing recruitment

The ongoing cycle of nursing recruitment and retention

BY: Eileen Williamson on October 4, 2017

Healthcare recruiters must stay ahead of the curve to attract and retain the best nurses

Healthcare recruiters know the healthcare industry is one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing job sectors, and nurses in particular are in high demand.

Based on a 2014 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, healthcare occupations were expected to see the fastest growth and add the most jobs of any industry in the decade between 2014 and 2024. Registered nursing was predicted to be the top occupation in terms of job growth. The RN workforce is expected to grow to nearly 3.2 million by 2024, a 16% increase over that same 10-year period, according to a January 2016 article in Becker’s Hospital Review.

Patricia Pittman, PhD, coordinator of the GW Health Workforce Institute at Georgetown University, said in a 2016 article in HealthLeaders Media that “by 2022, nearly one in eight U.S. jobs is projected to be in the healthcare sector,” noting the primary drivers of this trend are demographics and technology.

The years ahead look bright for employment in healthcare and for nursing in particular. That means those who are involved in healthcare recruitment or retention will have their work cut out for them.

The nursing recruitment and retention cycle

Whether you are a nurse recruiter, hiring manager or human resource professional in charge of talent acquisition, your goal is attract the highest quality staff and create a welcoming workplace environment that provides opportunities for employee advancement and growth.

Making the right hiring decisions is important to your success, but you also need good retention strategies to hold onto high performing employees. When recruitment is going well, you are able to identify the best applicants and make the right hires. When employees do well and stay, they contribute to improved patient quality and reduced staff turnover — both of which add to the organization’s reputation. Both, in turn, help with future recruitment because job seekers want to join great organizations. And the cycle continues.

The recruiter’s special role

I’ve always admired recruitment specialists for being the employee’s entrée into the organization. It’s an amazing responsibility, and in many ways a great privilege.

In addition to the marketing, advertising, resume reviews and initial assessments you handle, you conduct comprehensive interviews to determine with management which applicants’ educational backgrounds and work experience will fit best. You give information to management, complete needed paperwork and provide applicants with the facts they need to decide on the position. And that’s just the beginning; your role continues long after the first handshakes and job offers.

You work with managers, supervisors and education team members to ensure every employee has the right introduction to the organization, department and unit, including a quality orientation, appropriate skills assessments, mandatory training sessions, and more. You assist them in becoming satisfied, permanent members of the organization, and feel good knowing you helped them get started. Whatever great career advancements they make after that, you can be proud it all began with you.

Unquestionably, your role in the recruitment-retention cycle is a vital one.

Best practices for recruiting, retaining staff

As healthcare recruiters, you always want to ensure you are doing everything you can to bring in the highest quality talent and that your organization has the right environment and policies in place to keep them.

Here are some general concepts to consider to ensure you have the best employment practices in place:

Establish hiring and screening policies and procedures to attract and recruit the best possible pool of job seekers. Identify the best recruitment initiatives used by your organization and other successful industry recruitment best practices.
Offer an attractive salary and benefits package. Nurses want to work for organizations that invest in their employees.
Bring in the best applicants for interviews following the initial job application and screening process. Test applicants to measure their strongest talents and skills.
Provide strong onboarding and enculturation programs to ensure new employees feel welcome and are properly trained to do their jobs.
Nurture your best new hires and share their success stories with staff. Promote your best performers into more challenging roles to stretch their limits.
Invite veteran nurses to be preceptors and mentors for younger workers. Leverage the skills of your best employees to help others.
Create a professional and welcoming environment for all employees. Ensure managers are properly trained in company policies and procedures and on the appropriate treatment of subordinates.
Offer staff upward mobility opportunities within the organization. Seek and find the best career opportunities for employees. Facilitate employee access to continuing education and new certifications.
Follow national HR trends and best practices for employee retention, and institute the best of those to help reduce unnecessary turnover.
Keep current on research findings and best practices. Establish statistical and other measures to quantify how your employees are doing.

Healthcare organizations cannot provide quality patient care without quality staff. Your recruitment specialist position is a multi-faceted one, but at its core your role is to find the best employees and then work with management to keep them. That may sound simple to some, but it’s not — and you know that better than anyone.

The challenges you face as a recruitment professional are many, and based on the demands of the current healthcare system they will only increase. So, as you continue to work within your professional recruitment circles to share best practices, increase your knowledge and hone your skills, remember that every hire counts and each great career begins with 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.