How to Recruit Nurses


Recent nursing school graduates may be easy to recruit and hire but when it comes to experienced ones, companies of all sizes are competing for a limited talent pool.

It doesn’t help that these days nurses are highly specialized and are practicing their profession in a slew of settings whether it’s a hospital, skilled nursing facility, long term care clinic, urgent care facility  or even in drug stores, making the competition all the more fierce for recruiting skilled nurses.

“Recruiting needs to be focused on the specialty needed,” says Patricia Sweeney, human resource manager at Old Colony Hospice and Palliative Care. “The employer must know exactly what skills they need and be able to advertise those skills.”

When it comes to recruiting nurses, companies have to go after this group in a different way than when recruiting a marketing professional or accountant. Often the good nurses aren’t actively looking for a job but would be willing to jump ship for the right opportunity.

“If you look across all professions people want a pay check but most nurses want to do the best work of their life,” says Dr. John Sullivan, a HR professor, corporate speaker and advisor. “It’s not will you pay me. It’s do you have the best equipment, do you have the best doctors, do the nurses get the opportunity to make decisions and try new things.”

Because nurses rank those things higher than a pay check a medical facility that cares for children will likely draw experienced nurse as well as a brand name research hospital like Mayo Clinic. But it doesn’t mean the small institutions can’t recruit good nurses. They just have to make sure they highlight all the good attributes in the recruitment material. Similar to how employees of small businesses wear multiple hats, in a small hospital or facility the nurses will likely have a direct impact on the patient, get more responsibilities and deal with less bureaucracy, all of which should be conveyed during recruiting, says Sullivan.

Understanding what nurses want is half of the challenge the other half is creating high performing nurse recruitment strategies. According to human resources experts, with nurses one of the best ways to find that top talent is from referrals from other employees or nurses in the field.  “If a nurse is happy somewhere they will bring three friends with them,” says Jean Scheuer, vice president of advertising for Gannett Healthcare Group which operates nurse.com, a Website that provides job and education resources to nurses. “It’s all about recognition and retention inside the facility but when you are recruiting you should highlight what makes you stand out.”

Indeed at Old Colony Hospice and Palliative Care, Sweeney says her best resource for finding experienced nurses is references from current employees.  According to Sweeney the nursing community is small and nurses move around setting up situations where they are meeting other nurses from different venues and sharing experiences. If someone is happy at a certain facility they are apt to spread the word making the facility attractive to others in the field. “The majority of resumes we receive are unsolicited and result from a specific visit to our website or because they met someone who works for our organization,” says Sweeney.

In addition to word of mouth referrals, companies recruiting nurses have to do more than post a job online or in a newspaper. Even though nurse.com is online, it still puts out a monthly and/or bi monthly print magazine that is mailed out to more than 700,000 nurses across the country, provides further education and holds events. While a nurse may not give a job ad online a second glance he or she will spend time reading articles about their colleagues or their field and if there is an ad in that magazine potentially even see that. “To reach the passive seeker it has to be a combination of print, digital and then of course you,” says Scheuer.

At the end of the day, companies that want to get the best nurses have to be where they are and one place they will find an abundance of good ones is at certification classes. Many nurses will take advanced classes and certification programs and if someone from your facility or hospital teaches one of those classes he or she will have access to a slew of nurses, says Sullivan. If it’s not a further education course, then recruiters should do their research and find out what nurses are into and then hold a class or event focused on that, he says.  Sullivan says medical facilities that are written up in a journal or magazine or sponsor professional events will also have more access to good nurses then ones that don’t. “The top professionals don’t look at job ads,” says Sullivan. “Employers have to find other ways to get in front of them.”

Effective Strategies to Recruit Nurses

Using Employee Referral Programs

    • Proactive Employee Referrals – Ask your top nurses to provide you with a set number of referrals each month. Ask them to refer former colleagues, friends, anyone.
    • Skills-based Referrals – Ask your staff to refer the best nurses they’ve worked with by specific skills and areas of expertise. Have them reach out or provide contact information.
    • Referrals from Referrals – If someone passes you an amazing referral, then ask them if they know anyone else. Chances are you’ll hire your next best nurse from the same source.

Recruit Nurses at Events

    • Seminars – Take note of the most engaged members of seminars. Chances are they’ll be great hires or sources for referrals.
    • Sponsored Seminars – Sponsor a seminar or workshop that enables attendees to mingle with your staff. This is a great way to get your team in front of some great candidates.

Recruit Former Applicants and Employees

    • Boomerang Hires – Make sure to contact all of the great nurses that have left and see if they’re interested in your open position. If they’re not, then ask them if they can refer anyone that they think would be a great fit.
    • The Almost Made Its – Ever have candidates that were close to being hired but didn’t make the final cut? Reach back out to them to see if they have the qualifications needed or if they’re interested in your position.
    • The Too Good For You’s – Reach out to finalists that turned down your offers in the past. Try to resell them on your new position, and if they still reject your offer, then ask them for a referral.

Ask For Referrals During New-Hire Orientation

  • The First Day – During the first day for your new hires, ask them to write a list of the top 5 nurses from their previous facility. Ask them to help you recruit them and include incentives.

Get Started Today

Contact Us or call (888) 355-9323