How have recruiting techniques changed because of COVID-19?

National, state and local leaders from healthcare, government, finance and business are working feverishly to get more beds, ventilators and supplies of every kind to states and hospitals hit the hardest, and to come up with innovative recruiting techniques to quickly hire staff. That’s where you come in.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented national emergency, and as the virus continues to spread, media reports continue to highlight the need for more beds, ventilators, PPE  and, most of all, more nurses.

Nurses are needed to triage ED patients and quarantine those who test positive. They’re on the frontlines of care in every setting, dealing with a variety of patients and assuming constantly changing roles and assignments, filling in where needed and making a difference in outcomes.

As more diagnostic tests are done, cases grow at an alarming rate, as do the numbers of patients needing hospitalization and intensive care. Sadly, the number of deaths continue to rise as well.

Your role is important

You know well what your organizations are facing as census counts surge and extremely ill patients fill emergency rooms.

Control of infection, the safety of personnel, additional space and equipment, and supplies may all be on the list of needs, but the need for staff eclipses them all — and it’s you who are looked at to provide it.

Among your many duties, you’re likely reviewing the current recruitment plan and budget with hospital leadership and unit managers to provide for the special needs of your COVID-19 patients. You’re working with nurse leadership on innovative and creative ways to recruit, knowing full well the constraints posed by social distancing and working remotely.

You may be looking at bringing back recently retired nurses, changing shift times and assignments, reassigning tasks to other personnel, adding ancillary staff to the existing care team and more.

Think outside the box

Recruiters have always needed to be innovative in their recruitment and retention efforts and be able to “think outside the box.” Now, it’s more important than ever. To recruit new staff and retain current staff calls for responsiveness and timeliness, patience and teamwork, and attention to detail.

Good communication and listening skills are needed with staff. They’re the ones in the trenches, and they know what’s going well and what’s not. They know their patients’ needs and which skill sets are required to provide for them. Continue to ask for their input and suggestions.

Your innovation has always contributed to your organization’s success. “What do the nurses think?” is as important to the C-suite as it is to you.

Talk with your critical care leaders about using different staff to fill patient needs. Also ask these questions:

  • Could the current and up-to-date knowledge of senior nursing students from colleges closed for the semester be utilized?
  • Should you reach out to local nursing program faculty and employ a competency-based approach to ascertain their skills?
  • Might a new job description be designed for them in which they work under the supervision of a staff RN or nurse educator?
  • What about offering part-time nurses the opportunity to go full time temporarily, perhaps with full-time benefits?
  • Could the use of locum tenens staff be another arrow in your quiver?

And lastly, the Army recently announced that their recruitment is going totally virtual. Maybe consider the role telemedicine is playing in this epidemic and how you can use it. A lot is changing, and we need to change with it. Discovering what innovative recruiting techniques work for you may be a challenge.

Deal with the current reality

“As the U.S. battles to limit the spread, the number of healthcare workers ordered to self-quarantine is rising at an exponential pace.” Such headlines now are familiar, and your staff is probably worrying about having even less staff going forward.

They might be asking “what if more and more of us get sick and can’t work? How will the hospital cover us?”

Communicate with staff on what you’re doing to get more staff and keep them informed on the plans in place. Assure and then reassure them. Keep updating your staff on prospective hires, ways to provide expedited orientations, new staff models being looked at, temporary staffing plans, innovative ways to interview and test applicants and everything you’re doing to keep staffing safe.

 

 

Look and plan ahead

Current forecasts on the length of the pandemic vary, but it’s important to keep looking ahead and working months out on staffing plans. Keep the recruitment pipeline open and moving.

While everyone else is on self-quarantine, stay out in front of your nursing audience by all remote, telephonic, digital and print methods possible. Don’t disappear into the background in your recruiting efforts or in communication.

The tapestry of patient care is likely to continue changing for a long time, and hospitals and staff will change the way they do things in many ways. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not news that nurses and other medical professionals recently were placed at the top of the list of most dangerous jobs to have during emergencies such as this one. So do all you can to hold onto them.

Work with all of leadership to make the workplace best for current staff, and irrespective of cost, show staff you’re advocating for them by trying innovative recruiting techniques to get new staff on board.