Recruiting Strategies to Navigate the Nursing Shortage

May 27, 2016 Deanna Hartley


It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that one of the most in-demand jobs today is for nursing positions. But a recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 46 percent of health care employers said the role they struggled to fill above all others was that of qualified registered nurses.

We wanted a practitioner’s perspective on creative recruitment strategies to help fill these open nursing positions. So we recently sat down with Scott Sell, vice president of talent selection and executive recruitment at Mercy, to find out how they are dealing with the nursing shortage.

CB: Are you noticing a nursing shortage?

SS: There’s definitely a nursing shortage. You’ve got a market that’s high demand and limited supply. Nurses today can pick and choose where they want to go. It’s a candidate-driven market, especially on the nursing side.

The nursing shortage became apparent to us last summer. We were faced with a recruitment challenge of needing to fill positions at a faster rate than in previous years, but we were losing people faster than we were bringing them in. It’s an aggressive market out there and the competition is fierce, using things like sign-on bonuses to pay off student loans, etc.

CB: What are you doing differently to help fill nursing shortages?

SS: Going back to recruitment 101, you’ve got to recruit these candidates. You are no longer able to rely on just posting the position — you have to go out and start building networks and relationships with nurses. There’s now the mentality that it’s not just going to be a quick fill, but you’ve got to work on building a pipeline: today’s candidates will be tomorrow’s hires.


CB: Have you adapted any creative recruitment strategies that have helped fill nursing positions?

SS: We’re doing a trial with CareerBuilder’s Recruitment Edge. In addition to a standard team of recruiters, they’ve got talent scouts at Mercy whose job is to get out there and identify/find nurses who are not applying via traditional methods.

We use other tools — such as social media, etc. — to get out there and start networking and building relationships with these people, to understand their intent, what’s missing, what they’re looking for — and to convince them to join Mercy.

We receive about 20,000-plus applications a month, but the quality is still missing, so how do we get out there to find people to fill those positions — that’s why we’re doing a lot more proactive sourcing. Talent scouts don’t even go into the ATS; it’s a much more proactive strategy to go out there and create interest.

You still have to use the other tools — posting and pushing jobs out on social media, etc. — you don’t get away from that piece. It’s more about adopting a blended strategy of traditional and getting out there.

CB: How are you leveraging your own nurses to find the talent you need?

SS: We’ve had good success with taking nurses and converting them into recruiters or talent scouts. It’s advantageous to speak the language of a nurse — they know what hot button issues are. We’re wired to know enough about a position, but someone who has “been there done that” really resonates with candidates.

In each of our communities we’ve converted at least one nurse who’s a recruiter or scout now.

CB: Do you find that there’s more of a sense of urgency to find the right talent faster than before?

SS: You can’t have a long drawn-out interview process — once a candidate is engaged and interested, you have to move fast. We’ve even expanded the team so we’re not turning talent away. We have the same philosophy with our onboarding strategy; we don’t delay our new-hire class to the next month.

CB: How do you leverage employment branding in your organization?

SS: We like to highlight the fact that we’re a great place to work, a faith-based organization. We like to get out there and talk to nurses and ask them what keeps them here. In our job postings, we try to highlight the messaging that we serve a bigger purpose — we help to make the communities we serve better places to live. It’s about more than the quality of health care — it’s about helping those in need and making a difference.

We spend more time in the workplace than anywhere else, so there has to be a higher purpose and cause to what we’re doing — and we need to convey that to candidates. If we’re solely chasing the dollar, we’re going to lose them; there needs to be a sense of pride and purpose.

Put insight into action: Learn more about how you can find nurses right now to fill your open positions.

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