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The Hunt for Nurses: Recruitment and Retention

As a Nurse Recruiter, my main task was to find nurses to work in the roles we had available. Like most nurse recruiters, we had more roles to recruit than candidates, so my focus was to locate the supply to meet the demand, and this also meant to think about nurse retention.

Our short term solutions included:

  • advertising on job websites,
  • attending career fairs
  • and the occasional trawl through LinkedIn, methods also favoured by most of our counterparts across the industry.

Other options included:

  • the potential to recruit nurses from abroad,
  • or to invest in the student nurse workforce by employing them as HealthCare Assistants (HCAs) with the aim of developing their loyalty as a student so as to keep them as nurse candidates when they graduated. However issues with Preceptorship and the need for 6 months of experience before we could place them hampered this.
  • One of the ways I worked to manage this was to look at the potential for long-term placements where Preceptorship was offered. This increased the benefit to both the nurse and to the client in providing the nurse with ongoing work and the client with an extended period of consistent cover.

Word of mouth is often overlooked in favour of hard advertising campaigns, but a personal recommendation goes a long way in this industry, especially for nurses who are a precious commodity and need to be recognised and valued as such. I worked hard to add value to the service I provided to our nurse candidates and we did very well on recommendations. In addition, this added value also resulted in an increase on retention year on year. Indeed retention, as much as recruitment, became one of my primary goals, a goal which is echoed across the sector with a recent editorial in the Nursing Times making the same point, as well as this article in Nursing in Practice looking at measures to improve NHS nurse retention rates.

Therefore, nurse retention is a real concern in the healthcare sector. A recent article by a nurse advisor in the US identified that by, providing independence, matching nursing skills to the patient mix, and reducing overtime, hospitals could increase retention. Which is perhaps why so many nurses do choose to work as Agency nurses – booking shifts around external commitments, working in areas where they know they have the right skills and being able to choose how many hours they want to work mean that a nurse can avoid burn-out and manage the competing demands of family life around a fulfilling career.

The frustration with nurse recruitment, or indeed recruitment of any kind, is having to wait for the right candidate to find you, when it would make the process so much faster if you could quickly and easily locate the right candidate. In the Health & Social Care Sector the ability to deliver high quality, compassionate care depends upon recruiting and retaining the right people with the right skills.Think how much more effective you would be if you had access to a pool of suitable candidates who actually wanted to work.