How Lean Recruiting Can Help Solve the Nursing Shortage

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nurseshortageEditorial Note: This is a contributed guest post written by Brian Brazda, Partner at Lean Human Capital & The Recruiter Academy. In his role, Brian lends his expertise in healthcare operations to HR teams by leveraging lean business principles to cut costs, improve productivity, and increase efficiency. To learn more about Lean Human Capital & The Recruiter Academy, subscribe to their blog.  

The United States has the largest nursing workforce in the world with nearly 3.5 million nursing professionals, so it’s hard to believe we’re expecting a major shortage of nurses over the next five years. Based on the demographics of the current workforce, the size of graduating nursing classes, and the direction of nurses’ careers, experts project the active supply of nursing professionals (e.g., RNs, LPNs, and LVNs) will increase steadily from 3.5 million to 3.95 million over the next five years. Despite this substantial growth in supply of new nurses, researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce predict that we’ll still fall short of projected demands — an estimated 4.14 million by 2020.

Unfortunately, we’ve been in the midst of a nursing shortage for quite some time, and it’s a staffing issue that extends beyond a matter of inconvenience. It’s dangerous for everyone involved — adding unnecessary stress to an already stressful occupation. Additionally, the healthcare industry continues to evolve due to government regulations, shifts in care delivery models, and the expansion to new business verticals to address the needs of the aging population. In the past two years we’ve seen an influx of 32 million new patients to the national healthcare system with the passing of the Affordable Care Act. We’ve seen “Baby Boomers” begin to slowly but surely take advantage of healthcare services. Based on these factors alone, it’s likely the labor shortages are going to worsen until steps are taken to improve the situation.

This widespread shortage has reached a level so disconcerting that The New York Times recently ran an eye opening op-ed piece about our dire need for a solution to the all too common, dangerously imbalanced, nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals nationwide. However, what the article failed to address, and what many people fail to realize regarding this issue, is it’s not only nurses who are struggling (and often failing) to keep up. But rather, this problem, and what I believe to be its solution, starts with recruitment.

Similar to nurses, healthcare recruitment and human resource professionals are more overworked and understaffed than ever before. Consequently, hospitals and health systems are growing and trying to hire like crazy, while their recruitment teams are scrambling to fill the ever-growing list of open positions (very often without the help of additional recruiters). While two years ago many recruiters were responsible for managing 40-50 requisitions, they’re now often required to manage 100 or more. Unrealistic requisition loads coupled with dated and inefficient processes have only exacerbated the problem.

So, what can be done to assist overwhelmed recruiters so we can ultimately get more nurses hired, and hired faster? Well, first of all, add more recruiters to your team. There’s simply no way around it. Without adding recruiters to your team to help lower the number of open positions for which each recruiter is responsible, your organization runs the risk of promoting quantity over quality. Holding one recruiter responsible for managing 100+ positions is unrealistic, chaotic, and can lead to filling jobs fast, rather than filling jobs with the best candidates. Secondly, implement lean recruiting techniques to guide your organization’s recruitment processes. With lean principles in place, recruiters can focus on hiring the right person for the right job.

In a recent HR Pulse article titled, “Lean Recruiting Techniques Deliver Abundant Benefits”my colleague David Szary discusses the processes and benefits of lean recruiting (e.g., using lean principles, Six Sigma, and/or Theory of Constraints to develop a more efficient recruiting process) as applied to healthcare organizations. In his words, “By applying these methodologies, you can look at how to reduce waste, wait time and errors, ultimately improving the customer experience, reducing costs and increasing revenue.” Lean recruiting is also defined by one HR leader Carla Kennedy MBA, Human Resources Manager at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, as “…continuously trying to remove activities that don’t provide value, and identifying waste and delay in our process so we can focus on providing more value-added activities.” Essentially, lean recruiting is about simplifying processes while simultaneously cutting costs and providing organizations with improved performance. The value of  adopting lean recruiting processes is proven and made clear by Rush’s case alone. They have cut 20 days off their time-to-fill (from 60 to 40), as well as reduced their advertising costs by 41 percent.

Change is never easy, and gradual change takes patience, but it’s becoming painfully clear that a change is needed in traditional healthcare recruitment processes to meet the demands of the future healthcare environment. While there is no quick fix to our nationwide nursing shortage, lean recruiting is certainly a step in the right direction.


To learn more about how to optimize your healthcare recruitment strategy by building an elite recruiting team, request a demo of HealthcareSource Recruitment Optimization by Lean Human Capital.* This set of services takes a comprehensive look at your current recruitment process, educates teams, and helps you implement proven industry best practices to improve recruiting and achieve strategic goals across your healthcare organization. 

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*HealthcareSource is the exclusive provider of Lean Human Capital’s  Recruitment Optimization services for the healthcare market.

Brian Brazda

About Brian Brazda

Brian Brazda, Partner at Lean Human Capital & The Recruiter Academy is responsible for leading sales, marketing, and strategic partner initiatives. In his role, Brian lends his expertise in healthcare operations to help HR teams leverage lean business principles to cut costs, improve productivity, and increase efficiency.