Written by Brian Brazda, Former Senior Sales Director, Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSource

The United States has the largest nursing workforce in the world with 3.9 million nursing professionals, so it’s hard to believe we’re expecting a major shortage of nurses. 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) is expected to increase steadily. However, despite this substantial growth in supply of new nurses, we are still expected to have a shortfall of 1.2 million nurses by 2020.

Unfortunately, we’ve been in the midst of a nursing shortage, especially of experienced nurses, 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. We’ve seen an influx of new patients due to the passing of the Affordable Care Act and Baby Boomers beginning 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.

However, what many people fail to realize regarding this issue is that 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 just a few years ago many recruiters were responsible for managing 40 to 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-plus 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.

David Szary, Cofounder of Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSource, described 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 to HR Pulse: “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.”

Carla Kennedy, MBA, Managing Director of Lean Human Capital, defines Lean recruiting 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 time and time again. For example, Rush University Medical Center cut 20 days off its time-to-fill (from 60 days to 40) and reduced its advertising costs by 41 percent.

Change is never easy. A 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  our Lean Human Capital advisory services.

About Lean Human Capital

Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSource delivers a radical approach to healthcare recruitment analysis, process optimization, and continuous improvement. By rationalizing your staffing supply chain, we help you create a proactive, efficient hiring strategy that will dramatically reduce time-to-fill and vacancy rates, improve quality-of-hire and customer satisfaction, and reduce cost and waste.