Unique Recruitment Methods Yield Results

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By Christina Orlovsky, senior staff writer

With an expected need for more than one million new nurses by the year 2012, hospitals across the country are working hard to recruit valuable professionals with innovative and competitive recruitment programs. From recruitment dinners to collaborative education programs, to tuition reimbursement and loan repayment plans, incentive and job referral programs and beyond, there’s no limit to the tools hospitals use to appeal to new recruits.

For some hospitals and nursing programs, recruitment begins early. A recruiter from the University of Florida’s College of Nursing plants the seed about the nursing profession in the minds of elementary school students through monthly classroom visits. Other hospitals have implemented exploratory programs for junior high and high school students considering a career in nursing.

For the most part, however, recruitment programs are geared toward new graduates or those nurses looking to enter—or re-enter—the nursing profession sooner, rather than later. Facilities offer externship programs for nurses in their last six months of nursing school. Some hospitals, like Columbus Regional Hospital, in Columbus, Indiana, offer nursing students the opportunity to work at the hospital part time while attending school. These students are also invited into the “nurse buddy” program, in which staff nurses mentor students one-on-one to help with their professional development.

Development is also important to the recruitment process at Central Baptist Hospital, in Lexington, Kentucky—development of relationships with nursing students and local educational institutions as well as a pool of prospective employees.

The presence of five local nursing schools competing for faculty funding inspired Central Baptist Hospital to create a unique recruitment program called Partnership for Education in Nursing (PEN). According to Karen S. Hill, RN, MSN, CNAA, FACHE, vice president and chief nursing executive at Central Baptist Hospital, one of the program’s goals is to “develop a pipeline of new employees by capitalizing on the large number of students who rotate through the hospital each semester.”

The PEN program has seven key components: an on-site skills lab staffed with a full-time educator, scholarship dollars, free continuing education for faculty, loan repayment, student recognition, marketing efforts and a speakers bureau. Of all the components, Hill finds her marketing efforts reap the most rewards.

“I used to buy mailing lists and do mass mailings, but I realized I was mailing to people who already had jobs,” Hill said. “Then I did focus groups with new grads and found out that they chose us because of our clinicals. I decided that instead of marketing to the masses, I would do target marketing.”

To do this, Hill personally meets with clinical groups over breakfast or lunch, answers questions, speaks on topics of interest and advises students on what they can expect as new grads. She gives tips on what to look for in benefits packages and discusses some of Central Baptist’s professional programs for nurses, including the facility’s professional ladder, opportunities for nurses to advance and the hospital’s pursuit of Magnet status. Hill has also given out T-shirts or ponchos with the PEN program and Central Baptist logos.

Hill credits her nurse recruitment success—a 1.6 percent vacancy rate in 2004, down from 2.7 percent in 2003—partially to her presence and reputation in the community, but mostly to her willingness to educate the students and new graduates.

“It is very beneficial to market to the students so that they are already familiar with you,” Hill said. “It has worked well for me. Every semester I have interest in more positions than I can fulfill.”

Fulfilling positions before the need arises is the name of the game at Medical Center of McKinney, in McKinney, Texas. Although the hospital is not currently experiencing a shortage—in fact, it has a turnover rate below the average of the surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth area—McKinney is the fastest growing community under 50,000 people in the United States, according to Sandra Fulce, the center’s director of marketing.

Not only is the McKinney community growing, but the hospital is expanding as well, with additions including a congestive heart failure unit and a neonatal intensive care unit. In preparation for this growth, the hospital is looking for a few good nurses.

“We are trying to prepare for the growth that is going to hit us in the next eight to 12 months,” Fulce said, explaining that the hospital was looking for a recruitment technique that would draw attention to the hospital.

What better way to draw attention than by posting a billboard announcement reading: “Tell Your Friends to Quit Their Jobs”—the first step in a campaign the hospital rolled out in March. The billboard directs readers to a hospital job search web site which describes the recruitment perk: a $500 referral bonus for every successful employment referral. The first 50 applicants were to be entered into a drawing for a grand prize trip to Las Vegas.

On the first day, Fulce said, the hospital almost made its grand prize quota, receiving résumés from 45 qualified nursing candidates.

“The recruitment campaign definitely fulfilled its goal of creating a buzz,” she said.


University of Florida College of Nursing

Columbus Regional Hospital

Central Baptist Hospital

Medical Center of McKinney

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