Competing for customers can be a challenge for any business, including nursing schools.
Numerous nursing schools around the U.S. are hoping to attract as many students as they can to fill their available slots.
The goal for recruiters and marketing departments is to find the most effective strategies to get their message to prospective students about their programs and the benefits they offer.
“Schools that use multi-channel advertising rather than single-channel advertising to target potential enrollees are already one step ahead,” said Robyn Herian Tran, senior channel marketing manager at Nurse.com. “It enables your message to go wherever your target audience goes – no matter what device or platform they may be using at the time, and no matter where they are located geographically.”
A review of 2017 Nurse.com client campaigns showed clients who launched simultaneous email marketing and social media campaigns had click-through rates averaging 1.5 times higher than those who focused on social media alone, Herian Tran said.
Multi-channel approach returns best results
The Jacksonville University Keigwin School of Nursing in Jacksonville, Fla., uses multiple approaches to reach out to prospective students, said Margaret W. Dees, senior vice president of enrollment management and communications.
“Prospective nursing students are not monolithic,” Dees said. “We’re a comprehensive school and offer a broad range of nursing programs from 100% online, to hybrid — a mix of online- and campus-based — to traditional classroom-based formats. We reach out to a wide variety of students, from high school graduates to 20-year nursing veterans, so we use different methods to reach possible students.”
Advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook has produced good results for the nursing school, Dees said. The school is one of three schools in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences at Jacksonville University.
Other strategies include targeting alumni via email about furthering their education with a higher degree. BSN graduates, for example, receive periodic emails with information about the university’s MSN programs, Dees said.
Build relationships to recruit
“Building good relationships with healthcare providers and hospitals in the community, region and state is important and essential for building a foundation for ground-based programs that require a clinical component,” Dees said.
Solid relationships between the nursing school and healthcare institutions is mutually beneficial and provides the nursing school opportunities to build its curriculum.
“It also works well for hospitals given that Jacksonville University has created cohort-based learning at some hospitals with ground-based classes taught onsite on the hospital campus, along with the use of online instruction,” she said. “This helps hospitals meet their staff development goals, enables more nurses to earn a higher degree and expands the school’s enrollment, too.”
As a nurse recruiter, Theresa Mazzaro, RN, CHCR, communications director for the National Association for Health Care Recruitment, attends nursing career fairs, national nursing conferences and state chapter nursing conferences to recruit nurses for her hospital.
“These same conferences are great places for nursing schools to attend as vendors also, given that a percentage of nurses in attendance are also contemplating more education and earning a higher nursing degree,” said Mazzaro, who also is senior talent acquisitions specialist at Suburban Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Bethesda, Md.
In addition to live events for nursing professionals, another place for nursing schools to recruit prospective students is at the high school level, Mazzarro said.
“Reaching out to high school guidance counselors and high school students [to let them know] that a career in nursing is another option can also help grow nursing school enrollment,” she said. “There seems to be a big push encouraging students to become doctors; we also need to encourage students to become nurses, too.”
Use digital and print to tailor your message
To recruit recent graduates at Suburban Hospital, Mazarro started an open group on LinkedIn. She views it as another way for nursing schools to reach prospective students.
Email advertising reaches a large number of nurses, Mazarro adds, especially when placed in a national nursing organization’s emails to their members. This can be helpful to reach nurses who are thinking about returning to school, she said.
Other schools also employ multiple strategies to find new students.
“We use a multi-faceted approach including print, digital, radio and billboards to reach out to prospective students,” said Nicole Spano, senior marketing specialist with university relations at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. “If someone is thinking of going to nursing school, we want to come to mind and be on the top of their list.”
The use of targeted messaging to appeal to specific populations is another strategy used by Azusa, such as emailing BSNs about MSN programs or BSN-to-DNP programs, Spano said.
This tactic is something Nurse.com clients found success with in 2017, as well.
“The most successful multi-channel campaigns are very precise in targeting their messaging,” Herian Tran said. “They use demographic and segmentation information such as educational level, nurse specialty, age and geography to cater the message so it applies to the recipients as individually as possible.”
Say it with video
Azusa Pacific University also uses video as an effective way to tell the story about who they are as a school.
“One of our nursing alumni started a hospice in Kenya, Africa, after graduating,” Spano said. “We created a video to tell her story and highlight how our graduates make a difference in the world.”
According to Herian Tran, a Nurse.com nursing school client ran a social media campaign using a video to encourage enrollment in the school’s RN-to-BSN program. The video linked directly to their sign-up page.
This video campaign had a click-through rate that was more than double the average for static social media campaigns.
“Use video whenever and wherever you can,” Herian Tran said. “Video resonates with viewers in a way that static images cannot.”