Recruitment Realities: Building a HR/Nursing Partnership

Mary Maxwell


Nurs Econ. 2004;22(2) 

It's Monday morning, you are up to your eyeballs in work from the weekend shifts and one of your favorite nurses stops in your office and asks for a minute of your time. She hands you a piece of paper and you know what's next: she is leaving to take a position at the hospital across town. Your mind immediately starts racing, panic strikes, you call HR and scream: "I need a warm body! Stat!" The recruiter panics and immediately picks up the phone to place job ads and contact agencies. Sound familiar?

To counteract the constant cycle of recruiting fire drills, human resource departments should partner with nurse leaders to create a long-term recruitment strategy. Nurse leaders should consider the following important aspects of this relationship.

The number one rule for recruiting hard-to-fill positions: Speed counts!

The best way to increase your organization's efficiency is technology. We have all heard of the electronic posting boards used externally; however, many organizations have also switched to in-house electronic recruiting systems to improve their processes. Although the initial investment may be costly, the payoffs prove to be well worth the hard and soft costs.

These systems allow recruiters to post open positions -- and job candidates to submit résumés -- through hospital Web sites and national job posting boards. On the reverse end, the systems allow for electronic responses to candidates, automated reporting for measuring effectiveness, costs and legal compliance, and the ultimate elimination of "paper recruiting" as we know it. With the click of a few keys, a recruiter can receive a résumé, screen it for required skills and competencies, send an acknowledgment note to the candidate, and forward the résumé to a hiring manager. If desired, the résumés can go directly from the job candidate to the hiring manager who may respond directly to the job candidate with an electronic copy to HR and any other interested party. After the recruiting process is complete and the position is filled, HR and/or the hiring manager may electronically send "thank-you" letters directly to the job applicants who were not selected for the position.

A process that used to take a half hour or more can now be done in a few minutes resulting in quicker response times and reduced costs. The reduced costs come in the form of decreased administrative time and the elimination of (paper) form letters, snail mail, postage, and unwanted telephone calls. Furthermore, HR can focus their time adding value to the recruiting process instead of wasting time on administrative tasks.

As HR staffs plan their recruiting strategies and budgets, technology is the ultimate key to increased responsiveness, recruiting effectiveness, and decreased costs. Health care organizations that continue to recruit in the traditional manner will be at a disadvantage in more ways than one.

Another aspect to consider in recruitment strategies is finding candidates and planning for attrition. Too many organizations view recruiting as a short-term process, searching at college campuses or job fairs with a 6 to 9-month fill time or for immediate openings. HR and nurse leaders should look at planning and cost strategies in both the short-term and long-term perspectives.

Instead of interviewing college juniors or seniors, hospitals should establish candidate pipelines well before nursing students begin their job searches. Successful organizations are those that begin the recruitment process during students' senior years of high school or before. Establishing volunteer or student intern opportunities when nursing students are just starting out is a great example of how to win potential job candidates' loyalty early on.

Other best practices include scholarships or stipends, in exchange for a 2, 3, or 4-year commitment of employment. Obviously, the term of commitment will vary depending on the level of the scholarship; however, a $5,000 investment in this manner can reap long-term rewards and a guaranteed pipeline of employees. Money spent in this manner is a much better investment than spending it on temporary staff or traveling nurses.

When building a pipeline, additional considerations include looking outside the box of traditional candidates and considering atypical nurse candidates such as men, military personnel, people looking for second careers, nurses seeking part-time work, etc.

Peruse the Sunday classifieds and you will undoubtedly see numerous advertisements for nurses highlighting sign-on bonuses, medical insurance, dental insurance, and a generous benefits package. As a way to differentiate your organization from the competition and increase your recruiting effectiveness, HR and nurse leaders should focus on creating unique "benefits" such as job enrichment and developmental opportunities, mentoring programs, universal hospital courses, flexible schedules, etc.

These types of programs not only go a long way in recruiting the "employees of choice" but also prove to retain those employees, especially the more junior nurses who have a tendency to job jump after a couple years. Exit surveys reveal that, although the top reason employees leave their jobs is because of their direct-line managers, obtaining a more challenging and rewarding career is typically in the top three. Hospitals should look at ways to give their employees the opportunities to grow and learn more skills -- both formally and informally -- instead of having employees feel they need to leave their jobs to gain more experience and exposure to other career opportunities.

Although these types of programs vary depending on the organization's size and budget restrictions, successful programs will include employee and management input along with strategies and plans for communication and implementation. Many times, employee teams can take the lead with programs, especially those that are more informal such as a mentoring or buddy program. Some employees are even willing to work on these projects on their own time because they find value in the experience and are committed to having the opportunity to participate in the project and program.

HR professionals and nurse leaders often say they do not have formalized recruiting plans in place for several reasons including, but not limited to, staffing shortages, cost restraints, and lack of time. Those excuses will not disappear and may even become worse. The only way to counteract staffing fire drills is to view recruitment and retention as long-term strategies, worthy of the initial cost and time investment, and designed to attract and retain the brightest and best! Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, technology, candidate pipelines, and employee development programs are a start in the right direction.

In the next edition of Human Resource Solutions, short-term recruitment strategies will be highlighted.

Editor's Note: Human Resource Solutions focuses on human resources issues from a manager's perspective. The topics addressed will be randomly selected from questions received by our readers. The intent is to create real solutions for your real HR problems. However, the recommendations given here should not be considered legal advice. Please send your HR questions and comments to


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