The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted nurses to rethink their careers and reinforced the need for healthcare and nursing leaders to shift their approach to nurse recruitment and retention. A 2021 survey by the American Nurses Foundation found that 18 percent of 22,316 respondents planned to leave their current position in the next 6 months. When the data are sorted by nurses working in hospitals (8,524), that percentage rises to 21 percent. These pandemic-related staffing problems are intensified by factors that existed before COVID-19 and that still plague leaders. For example, hospitals in rural areas continue to struggle more with nurse staffing than those in urban locations. Generational differences also exist, with Generation Zers and Millennials more likely to leave positions compared to Generation Xers and Baby Boomers. The exodus of bedside nurses takes its toll on remaining staff and, in some cases, quality of care.
Too often, organizations have viewed nurses primarily as an expense, failing to understand that investing in this workforce yields financial rewards. High-quality nursing care helps to reduce the likelihood of patient safety events and costly medical malpractice lawsuits related to missed errors. Savvy leaders know that ensuring appropriate staffing levels is key to the financial health of the organization, which means engaging in effective recruitment and retention strategies. This article, the first in a two-part series on nursing recruitment and retention, will address recruitment strategies that leaders can utilize to help attract new nurses to their organization
Nursing and other organizational leaders need to work closely with human resources staff to ensure recruitment processes are efficient and effective:
Craft ads that work. First impressions count. Everyone is your competitor for a limited pool of nursing talent, so do what you can to make your organization stand out as an attractive place to work. Be sure images in recruitment ads reflect the organization, particularly when it comes to diversity. Many organizations feature their own nurses in ads, which has the additional benefit of employee recognition. Try to make your messaging as personalized as possible, emphasizing your organization’s culture and authentically communicating why nurses should want to be a part of your organization.
Reach out early. Ask staff who work with students completing clinical rotations to identify those who might make good employees when they graduate. Then get to know the students and encourage them to apply when the time comes. If you lead a specialty unit, invite students to attend meetings (onsite or virtual) of local chapters of the national specialty nursing association so they can learn more about the role. You also may want to partner with local schools to teach a class or workshop so you can connect with students.
Promote digital efforts. Organizations’ websites often miss the opportunity to feature nurses. Your facility’s website should have a special section highlighting nursing, including stories that feature individual nurses. You can ask staff to record video testimonials that highlight what they enjoy about working for your organization. In addition, your organization’s job portal and job application process should not be so cumbersome that potential employees give up in frustration.
Individualize benefits. Avoid a “one size fits all” approach to benefits. Instead, offer a menu that nurses can choose from. For example, a late-career nurse may be more interested in retirement-matching funds, but a newer-to-practice nurse may be attracted to a flexible schedule, tuition or student loan assistance, or child-care benefits.
Obtain Magnet® status. Becoming a Magnet®-designated facility can be expensive, but many nurses prefer organizations with this designation, so it can be well worth the investment. Magnet® status also may help reduce turnover and decrease patient morbidity and mortality.
Provide optimal onboarding. This is often discussed as a retention tool, but it also falls under the recruitment category, as potential employees want to know how supported they will be in their new role. This is particularly true of new graduate nurses, who have seen their recently graduated colleagues rushed into practice as a result of the pandemic. Many organizations are being shortsighted in cutting back on nurse residency programs, which not only attract staff, but also promote a smoother transition into practice, thus increasing retention.
Preceptors should be chosen based not only on their level of expertise, but their effectiveness as educators. Orientees (and preceptors) should know that they can speak up if the match isn’t working.
Be sure staff feel warmly welcomed. For example, some organizations send a signed welcome card to the employee’s home before their start date. Others post the employee’s name and photo in a visible location on the unit.
Check in regularly with new staff to see how they are adjusting, such as weekly for a month, then every other month or so, and then after 6 months.
Meeting the challenge
Finding creative solutions to recruit nurses is more important than ever. However, it is only the first piece of the puzzle to building a robust nursing team. Creating a safe, supportive work environment that recognizes nurses’ meaningful contributions is essential to encourage nurses to want to keep working for your organization. Part two will discuss retention strategies that healthcare and nursing leaders can employ to help increase the likelihood that they retain current nursing staff.
Article by Georgia Reiner, MS, CPHRM, Risk Specialist, NSO
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