Weak job growth. A slowing economy. A declining housing market. Troubles in the financial sector. The news is full of worrisome developments that may indicate instability for workers in many professions and industries. Yet one area appears to be unaffected by threats of a recession: nursing and allied health professions.
There have been news reports recently of professionals in other industries, discouraged by their job outlook, switching into nursing as a stable, recession-proof career. While second careers in nursing are not necessarily new, this trend’s impact is being heightened by concerns over job prospects in other professions. Yet even with career shifters, healthcare employers are still facing a critical shortage of qualified nursing talent.
Some industries may be instituting layoffs, but hospitals, clinics and other healthcare groups are scrambling to fill vacant nursing positions. And this shortage may become more acute in the coming years as an aging Baby Boomer population increases the need for nursing services:
- According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of vacancies for registered nurses (RNs) was 125,000 in 2005; that shortfall will grow to 800,000 by 2020.
- Online job availability for skilled healthcare occupations such as nursing is up 15% from a year ago, compared to a 5% decline overall across professions, according to the Monster Employment Index, which tracks online job availability.
- RNs are the most difficult positions to fill, sometimes taking more than 40 days to find a qualified candidate and costing recruiters an average of $3,175. Recruiters will have a slightly easier time finding candidates with skill sets in the areas of LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses) and CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistants).
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employment growth in the healthcare sector averaging 23.8% between 2006 and 2014, with ambulatory healthcare services and nursing and residential care facilities showing the highest percentages of demand (33.1% and 24%, respectively.)
These statistics reflect only some of the obstacles recruiters and healthcare organizations face while trying to fill open positions. At a time when job seekers are looking for stable careers, recruiters can do a lot to demonstrate the appeal of nursing by following some long-term recruitment and retention strategies:
Reach out to the community
Look to the community to spread the word about the virtues of a nursing career. Encourage nurse managers within the organization to join community groups to educate people on available nursing positions. Host open houses, tours and seminars to introduce would-be career seekers to what life is like working in a medical environment. Leverage hospital publications and healthcare newsletters to highlight nursing careers and profile key employees.
Look to the schools – and beyond
Besides developing relationships with nursing schools, reach out to high schools – even elementary schools – to introduce the next generation to the benefits of a career in nursing. Sponsor career fairs and encourage nurse managers to speak at local schools. Look beyond traditional female candidates and establish programs to entice males to the career.
Provide a rich professional development program
Mentoring initiatives for nursing graduates, one-on-one buddy systems and assertiveness training are perks that may appeal to existing staffers and job seekers alike. Offering professional development training in areas such as acute care and operating room nursing can go a long way in giving current staffers a career path that keeps them engaged. Finally, make sure your organization has a complete orientation program so incoming nurses have enough time to get up to speed.
Heed salary and scheduling concerns
Flexible scheduling and job-sharing can attract a new audience as well as accommodate older nurses who have different scheduling needs and preferences. It goes without saying that competitive salaries and full benefits packages are a must to ensure your position is on par with – or stands out from – all of the other available postings.
Work on possible image problems
While nursing always ranks high in surveys as a trusted profession, many in the current workforce complain of being devalued by others in the medical community, particularly physicians. Healthcare organizations need to address this shortcoming by working with the human resources department and medical management to ensure others in the community treat the role with respect and value. Instituting a zero tolerance policy for disruptive behavior, encouraging close nurse and physician collaboration and implementing reward and recognition programs can help mitigate any image concerns.
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