Successful nurse recruiting more than just recruiting

Marysville, WA - May 7, 2002 - The traditional way of recruiting nurses is a zero-sum game in today's market, says Joe Bannon, recruitment solutions product manager, Atlanta Journal and Constitution. "There are not enough nurses to go around and the nurses that you recruit today, your competition will recruit from you tomorrow. In a zero-sum game nobody wins. You end up spending energy that should be focused elsewhere," says Bannon who will be speaking on innovative programs that are helping with the nursing shortage at the July 2002 National Association for Health Care Recruitment annual meeting in Marco Island, Fla.

Solution #1: Brand the hospital as a great place to work

"Employer branding pays dividends to hospitals and the image of nursing beyond just finding the med-surg nurse that you need to put on staff tomorrow," Bannon says. "Hospitals should focus on how they are perceived as a place to work.

According to Bannon, more employer energy also needs to be focused on changing the image of nursing to a profession that young people would desire. Advertising and promotional efforts should not only communicate what type of care hospitals provide but also the quality of an institutions' caregivers. That, in turn, communicates how you provide healthcare to the community."

Solution #2: Employers drive future image of nurses

Dennis Sherrod, associate director of recruitment and retention programs, North Carolina Center for Nursing, agrees that image is important and thinks creating an image for teens and even younger people should no longer be the job of nursing schools. Employers need to get into the game, he says. "The shortage that we're seeing now is becoming almost a feeding frenzy among recruiters and agencies and it's only going to become more of a challenge. What many try to do is throw some money at it. We're trying to get employers to grow their own and enlist them to become part of the profession," Sherrod says.

Solution #3: Retain, retain, retain

Sherrod, also a speaker at the upcoming NAHCR conference, develops the statewide infrastructure for the recruitment and retention efforts of the North Carolina Center for Nursing, a state agency, charged with recruiting nurses for North Carolina health facilities. The other solution in the nursing shortage is to focus on retention. "My new saying … is that retention is your best recruitment strategy. [That means having] a workplace that allows nurses to meet personal and professional needs--offering such things as quality patient care, decent salaries, workable workloads, flexibility in staffing--then that word of mouth goes out," he says.

The key to retention is knowing that it's all about people, Sherrod says. "We're trying to help employers see that they have to look at retention as being long-term. There has to be someone who is responsible and accountable in agencies for retention. The best thing I've seen recommended is that nurse managers would take the responsibility of retention. I'm entirely fine of even putting some money with that-to provide some monetary incentives for people to go above and beyond. Why couldn't we have nurse mangers when they have a certain turnover rate and they decrease it, they get a bonus in that unit," according to Sherrod.

Don't sacrifice a good fit for quick fix

Jayne Kerns, RN, BSN, nurse recruiter St. Lukes Hospital, Chesterfield, Mo., concedes there is no magic answer but despite the challenges and pressure to fill positions quickly, recruiters still have to keep a good fit in mind. "Everyone is motivated by different things," Kerns says. "I think you still have to really keep in mind that you want a good placement-one that's going to last and not just be a quick fill."

"This is a new era in healthcare," says Frank Heasley, PhD, President and CEO, of MedZilla.com, a leading web site that serves healthcare professionals and employers. "Employers are an important part of the solution in making the long-term commitment to rebuild the nursing population. Moving forward over the next several years, changing demographics and an aging population in the United States will place even greater burdens on our healthcare systems. We will need to devote substantial public and private resources and energy toward reestablishing nursing as a profession worthy of the respect it once commanded. "

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