The nursing job market is becoming increasingly competitive and candidate-driven. As such, employers need to develop new ways to attract and source qualified candidates.

“Unemployment is down across the board, and with nursing, it’s lower than that,” says Brad McLaughlin, manager of talent acquisition for OhioHealth. “In many regards, we are operating in essentially full employment.” In fact, employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that we’ll need almost 204,000 new RNs annually to replace retiring nurses and fill new positions through 2026.

McLaughlin also adds that, “It’s a candidate-driven market, so you have to have an all-in approach [and] get to different audiences. Not that you abandon traditional approaches – but you have to reach different audiences…and you have to be open to things you haven’t always done.”

To improve your sourcing results in this competitive nursing market, try these innovative strategies.

#1 Study the Competition

Borrowing is the sincerest form of flattery, so we certainly look to see what others are doing,” McLaughlin says. “Social media is a great way to see what is happening, and not necessarily within our own market, but different markets and health systems around the country, which we benchmark ourselves against.”

McLaughlin also analyzes LinkedIn, Indeed, and Google to see what platforms other health systems are using to attract candidates. “If I see something I like that we are not doing, why not consider it? I think we can learn from each other.”

#2 Build Relationships with Nursing Students

Develop collaborative relationships with universities, community colleges, and even high school career and technical education programs to engage with students exploring or studying nursing.

For example, MaineGeneral Medical Center partnered with Purdue University Global to offer the Clinical Academic Partnership, a modification of the Dedicated Education Unit, to provide clinical nursing education and professional growth opportunities.

This strategy is “particularly appropriate for areas such as Maine that have too few master’s-prepared faculty and an increasingly critical nursing shortage,” explains Purdue’s Shannon Gauvin, DHA, MSN, RN, FAAN. “Acclimating potential new nurses to the culture of an organization provides them with a sense of belonging and adds value to the experience, which often leads to loyalty to the organization.”

Bonus: The feedback you get from participants provides a view of what new nurses look for as they prepare to enter the workforce.

#3 Focus on High-Need Specialties

OhioHealth responded to a particular need for medical/surgical nurses by creating nursing fellowships in med/surg, surgery, critical care, and ED. The nine-week programs provide hands-on leadership development and patient experience to prepare students for rapid deployment to high-need units.

The initiative produced a 167 percent reduction in days to fill open positions and earned OhioHealth a Brandon Hall award in 2018 for Best Unique or Innovative Workforce Management Program.

#4 Leverage Professional Associations

“Innovative partnerships with medical organizations are an excellent option to tap into talent pipelines to connect current nursing professionals with candidates that have an interest in the field,” Gauvin says.

Create a deeper relationship beyond having a presence at association-sponsored conferences and job fairs or sponsoring webinars. Support in-person events to discuss trends or deliver learnings. Pitch your nurses as instructors or subject matter experts to showcase the talent already on board at your organization and establish it as a place where top talent works.

Test-Driving New Sourcing Strategies

McLaughlin’s advice for innovating your nursing recruitment strategies is simple: “Try it, measure it, and see if it works. You have to look at cost, be mindful and talk to clients about ROI.”

But don’t wait to try different tactics, he counsels. “Traditional is not enough right now.”


Learn more about innovative sourcing and recruitment strategies by downloading our eBook, “A New Way to Look at Recruiting: Think Bigger and Broader.”


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Margot Carmichael Lester

About Margot Carmichael Lester

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based freelance business journalist who has been covering healthcare and staffing for more than 20 years. She also writes about moviemaking for the International Cinematographers Guild, specializing in action cinema. Margot co-authored the award-winning teen writing book Be a Better Writer with her husband, Steve Peha. She earned her BA in journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and is a rabid Tar Heel basketball fan.