How to Win the Battle for Healthcare Talent

nursing shortage

The battle for nursing talent is on - and it's going to be epic.

This was apparent at the recent LEAP Healthcare and ASHHRA conferences where CHRO's and VP's of talent acquisition talked about how to use data collected from business intelligence software. "Now that we have this data," they're wondering, "what actionable initiatives can we put in place to be ready for front line leadership transitioning from baby boomers to millennials?"

It's not a small worry. Consider this: 

  • 53% of working nurses are older than 50, according to data quoted by the American Nurses Association
  • The Bureau of Labor has projected a 19% growth in employment for registered nurses and a 34 percent growth rate for nurse practitioners from 2012 to 2022.
  • In its ranking of top 100 health care jobs, US News ranks NPs second and RNs sixth from the top.

Keeping Up with the Demand for Healthcare Talent

Colleges and Universities will not be able to keep up with the demand, resulting in even stiffer competition for talent.

That means healthcare organizations will have to look within for actionable approaches to meeting nursing goals. Those who plan to succeed should be looking to three key areas:

Employee Development/ Tuition Assistance Programs

Many of the top academic university medical centers have completely overhauled their tuition assistance programs to actively engage employees for career mobility purposes. Instead of letting employees pursue a degree in a field they hope will get them promoted, these smart organizations are providing academic career advisors who listen to employees' aspirations and prior learning experience, and then provide custom education plans that position employees to step into internal job openings recruiters actually need.

These advisors stay with employees throughout their educational journeys and help remove barriers to degree completion - such as money or time issues - by guiding them toward scholarships and grants or weekend courses and accelerated programs. Organizations must demand more out of the millions they spend each year in tuition assistance; the technology, mechanisms, and support are now here to actually deliver meaningful results.

Loan Repayment Programs

Here's an area where employers can be ahead of the curve. Nationwide, student loan debt exceeds $1.3 trillion and 70% of new college grads average $30,000 in student debt, typically taking 10 years to pay off. That means innovative employers can use loan-repay programs to attract young nurses to hard-to-fill positions.

These loan-repayment programs have multiple benefits: they separate organizations from others; they provide a valuable attraction tool; and they keep base compensation in check. By appealing to young Millennials, they also pave the way for well-defined career tracks for young nurses and transfer of knowledge within the organization.

The result: Millennial RNs will not be forced into new roles at the very last minute with minimal mentoring. And think of the benefits of enabling that new hire to be mentored by soon-to-retire veteran nurses. This makes such programs effective ways to fill your pipeline for future talent needs today, and to align development opportunities for employees' personal growth.

Organizational Brand

Millennials are taking over as the predominant demographic and what they're looking for is not what you think.

Do not assume, for example, that Millennials all want to jump from job to job and will not be loyal, as some have claimed. Studies have shown Millennials want to commit to employers; they long to work for organizations that can provide career growth, structure, and guidance on how to earn promotions, and they'll gravitate to employers who provide those opportunities.

So to hire and keep the next generation of nurses, you'll need to increase employee engagement on personal development and career advancement opportunities. You'll also need to market your organization as a leader in employee development for career growth, while understanding employee perspectives on work-life balance, use of/comfort with technology, and the healthcare profession itself.

A positive workplace culture can definitely help you retain great talent, even overriding other considerations that can't be changed, such as long commutes.

The Healthcare Talent Landscape is Changing

What's clear is the talent landscape for healthcare organizations is changing and those who adapt have substantial opportunity.

Together, the above enhanced benefits allow you to avoid skills gaps by building your bench strength from within with team players who already are culture fits. These approaches also improve employer branding and employee morale, and so support talent acquisition, greatly increase retention, and most importantly, support your organization's bedside care.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

Bright Horizons logo on yellow background

The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.