From lucrative sign-on bonuses and tuition reimbursement to generous benefits packages, healthcare organizations tap a variety of strategies to recruit nursing talent.

According to a recent survey by Avant Healthcare Professionals it has become more difficult to hire nurses to meet the need for quality healthcare in the U.S.

The national nursing shortage that exists in 2019 could be linked to a rise in patients, an aging population, lack of educational resources and career burnout among younger staff, the survey said.

“We need to find ways to make nursing attractive to young people with getting paid quicker and a better recruitment process,” Assaf Shalvi, CEO and founder of Swift Shift, told Modern Healthcare. Swift Shift is a software designed to improve the recruiting process for home healthcare professionals. “That is the only way you are going to solve the shortage.”

Improved recruitment efforts are exactly what many hospitals are looking to achieve. Below are a few creative methods some organizations have used to hire nurses.

1 — Show me the money

UCHealth, which operates nine hospitals and more than 100 clinics in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, offers relocation bonuses of up to $10,000, according to HealthLeaders.

At Washington D.C.-area based Inova Health System, new hires can receive a $20,000 sign-on bonus, while nurses living within 50 miles of their facilities also receive $10,000 sign-on bonuses, HealthLeaders reports.

In July, CHI Memorial in Chattanooga, Tenn., started offering $20,000 sign-on bonuses, with the goal of filling between 50 and 100 bedside nursing positions, the Times Free Press in Chattanooga reported.

“There are very few that actually want to work what we call ‘at the bedside,’” Chris Smith, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC, director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing, told the newspaper.

Among the factors that can make it difficult to recruit top nursing talent are a desire for more work-life balance, which can be tough to provide in settings like med-surg.

There’s also a trend toward nurses quickly moving away from the bedside to pursue graduate degrees and more specialized roles for more work flexibility, the Times Free Press reports.

2 — Invest in lifelong learning

In addition to providing tuition reimbursement to nursing staff, some hospitals are offering tuition for family members.

HealthLeaders reports West Virginia University Medicine pays full college tuition to WVU for nurses and their children, and partial tuition if they go elsewhere.

“It’s for nurses and for all of our staff who’ve been here for five or more years,” Mary Fanning, director of WVU Medicine Nursing Administration told CNN. “We’re also extending it for their children to fully cover their college tuition if they go to West Virginia University or partially cover tuition if they go elsewhere.”

Like many facilities, UCHealth also is looking toward tuition reimbursement to make nursing roles more attractive, providing up to $4,000 a year to invest in continuing education.

3 — Involve the whole team to hire nurses

Midland Memorial Hospital in Midland, Texas, took a no holds barred approach when it came to nurse recruitment.

The hospital recently set out to recruit 80 nurses in 80 days to its 320-bed facility, according to Strategies for Nurse Managers. A team effort with help from the public relations department, human resources and nursing directors resulted in a large-scale campaign featuring billboards, radio commercials, poster displays and open houses.

The hospital also offered staff nurses an incentive in the form of referral bonuses to hire nurses. By the end of the campaign, Midland Memorial had recruited 78 nurses for open positions.

“Instead of investing $100,000 in an agency that would recruit five nurses over the year, we opted to do something different,” said Robert L. Dent, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, vice president of nursing at Midland Memorial Hospital.

4 — Examine your environment

But benefits can only take a hospital so far. Healthcare experts say another strategy to recruit and retain nurses lies in a facility’s work environment and workplace reputation.

Research shows transforming the environment can reduce nursing turnover and make organizations more attractive.

Methods recommended for reducing turnover include eliminating mandatory overtime, developing shared governance programs, encouraging collaboration and recognizing nurses’ needs when it comes to work-life balance, according to The Sentinal Watch.

Karen Mayer, PhD, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Rush Oak Park (Ill.) Hospital started working to change the environment and reputation of her organization 13 years ago, HealthLeaders reports.

“There were excellent, excellent nurses working here, yet the punitive environment resulted in a lack of respect toward nurses by physicians [and] administrators and from nurse to nurse,” Mayer said.

Mayer set out to revamp the hiring process and put a heavier focus on recruitment and looked at bringing in more new grads, including many from the first cohort of clinical nurse leaders graduating from Rush University School of Medicine.

She also worked with human resources to make the process easier to hire nurses, ensuring all nurse applicants were contacted within 24 hours for an interview, the article stated.

Her approach worked. Today Rush’s turnover rate is at 8%, down significantly from the 24% Mayer saw when she first started and there is only one vacancy.

“This was our one opportunity to sell ourselves,” Mayer told HealthLeaders. “We wanted to get the message out that we were truly different from what was expected.”