recruitment marketing healthcareRecruiting high-quality candidates for hard-to-fill positions is one of the primary business challenges healthcare organizations face today. The healthcare workforce shortage is widespread and growing, forcing changes in patient care and requiring a significant shift in the way organizations source, attract, engage and close top talent.

Healthcare organizations that do not add recruitment marketing software and modern marketing practices to their toolkits will be fighting an uphill battle for top talent.

The Changing Landscape’s Impact on Healthcare Recruitment

The U.S. has been dealing with a clinician shortage for decades;  however, an aging population means the problem is about to get much worse. Current estimates put the nurse vacancy rate at most hospitals at over 8 percent, with one in seven hospitals reporting more than 20% of their RN positions as vacant. According to a recent study by Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), projections show a clinician shortfall in the U.S. ranging between 61,700 and 94,700, with a more significant nursing shortage among some subspecialties.

Increasing demand for healthcare services from our growing and aging population, together with the dramatic growth in the number of people insured under the Affordable Care Act, puts tremendous pressure on healthcare organizations. Add to that increased competition for clinicians from the more than 11,800 urgent care and retail facilities drawing from the same talent pool and you have even more challenges for healthcare talent acquisition teams.

While vacancy numbers are certainly of serious concern, time-to-fill data paints an equally alarming picture. The length of time it takes for an organization to fill a job directly impacts both revenue and expense lines, and we are now seeing difficult-to-fill positions, such as RNs, with an average time-to-fill of 143 days. That, of course, comes at a significant cost to the organization due to the additional costs associated with backfilling the opening via overtime and contingent staffing.

According to a 2013 Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSource® survey, the total cost of vacancy for 240 RN positions at just one hospital with an average time-to-fill of 136 days resulted in an expense hit of $6,887,040. When you’re dealing with numbers that large if you can reduce time-to-fill by even small percentage points, the bottom line benefit can be significant.

Extended timelines to fill key roles is also impacting patient care. According to a study by the American Nursing Association, higher RN non-overtime staffing decreases the odds of readmission of medical and surgical patients by nearly 50 percent and reduces post-discharge emergency department visits. Increased RN staffing was also associated with:

  • 28 percent decreased odds of a patient experiencing cardiac arrest in the ICU
  • 30 percent decreased odds of a patient acquiring pneumonia during hospitalization
  • 51 percent decreased odds of unplanned extubation
  • 60 percent decreased odds of respiratory failure

Furthermore, increases in RN staffing have been shown to reduce the length of stay by 24 to 31 percent.

Addressing Staffing Gaps in Healthcare

To address the staffing gaps, organizations are employing more contractors, increasing staff overtime, closing beds, and shuttering expansion plans. This is having a tremendous impact — from patient care, which is any hospital’s core mission, to expenses and revenue, which support the health of the organization itself.

As we know, the solution rarely is as simple as placing an ad and receiving a flood of highly qualified applicants. According to Lean Human Capital benchmarks, healthcare talent acquisition professionals are seeing an average of 11 applications per hire for direct care RNs (compared to 20 in the past). Candidate flow is simply too tight. If you’re only seeing 11 applications, you’re likely not able to hire the staff of the highest caliber. Instead, you’re picking from a small set of applicants rather than finding the best candidates from a larger pool of talent.

That’s one reason why median first-year turnover hovers around 14 percent, providing a real indicator of the quality of hire. When you need to lower your hiring standards to fill vacancies, patient care is impacted. Not only does the quality of patient care suffer, but revenue is impacted via the direct costs associated with re-hiring. With turnover at 14 percent and hospitals paying an average of $25,000 per backfill in a combination of overtime and contingent staffing agency costs, the revenue impact related to dysfunctional talent acquisition processes, practices, and outcomes is not something healthcare organizations can ignore.

Bottom line, if you’re not able to increase your lead flow, your pool of qualified applicants shrinks, and you are subsequently less likely to hire the most qualified employees and you are far more likely to incur significant (possibly crippling) talent-related expenses. The goal is not just more leads, but also better leads.

Rethink Your Recruitment Strategy with Recruitment Marketing

While most healthcare organizations understand the crucial role that recruitment plays in the overall talent acquisition process, the vast majority do not have dedicated sourcing programs to attract more candidates, build a pipeline, and increase brand awareness among potential applicants. This is where recruitment marketing comes into play. Defined as the strategies an organization uses to find, attract, engage and nurture talent before they apply for a job, recruitment marketing is often referred to as the pre-applicant phase of talent acquisition.

The average time to incubate a candidate lead in healthcare is 25 hours. Recruitment marketing is focused on not only increasing the number of qualified candidates, but also reducing the time spent finding them, communicating with them, and coordinating the details of the phone screens and interviews.

Key elements of recruitment marketing software include:

  • Candidate Attraction: Optimizing job listings, increasing search engine optimization, and developing branded career sites
  • Candidate Sourcing: Going beyond job advertising by building relationships with passive and active candidates, organizing them into targeted talent pools, and then identifying underperforming sources of hire
  • Candidate Relationship Management (CRM): Maintaining and nurturing relationships with your candidates, building a lead pipeline, and increasing your brand awareness and loyalty
  • Candidate Experience: Ensuring applicant conversion by employing best practices to provide a positive experience for target candidates
  • Candidate Campaign Analytics: Monitoring and ensuring program success by tracking campaigns and evaluating the effectiveness of your spend and overall recruitment efforts

Some of these features have existed in various forms in applicant tracking systems (ATS), but in recent years, we are seeing more of these functions move into a separate solution that works in tandem with the ATS (i.e.: recruitment marketing software). As more healthcare executives begin to understand how recruitment marketing initiatives can shorten time-to-fill for crucial roles, reduce turnover, improve patient outcomes, and increase revenue, this trend will only accelerate.

Modern recruitment is both an art and science. Healthcare talent acquisition teams must employ a combination of traditional recruitment tactics and modern marketing techniques in order to attract, source, engage, and ultimately close a candidate. Recruitment marketing helps demystify the process and build talent pools by increasing the effectiveness of sourcing strategies and attracting more of the right talent via targeted sourcing techniques. Most importantly, increasing the candidate pipeline and reducing the time-to-fill crucial roles will improve patient outcomes.

Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of HR Pulse Magazine and has been published here with permission from the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA) of the American Hospital Association (AHA).


Hear more at the NAHCR 2017 IMAGE Conference in my session, “How Investing in Recruitment Marketing Helps Deliver Quality Patient Care.”

Get a sneak peek at other topics from HealthcareSource at the NAHCR 2017 IMAGE Conference: 


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Dave Wilkins

About Dave Wilkins

As Chief Marketing Officer at HealthcareSource, Dave leads marketing strategy, overseeing corporate marketing, product marketing, and strategic alliances. Previously, he co-founded the Oracle Sales Academy, a sales enablement organization serving Oracle’s global sales team. Prior to Oracle, Dave was Head of Taleo Research where he was recognized as an industry thought leader in the field of Human Capital Management. Dave has also served as VP of Product Marketing for Learn.com and as Chief Strategy Officer for Knowledge Impact where he spearheaded OEM relationships with PeopleSoft, Clarify, and Witness Systems. In 2010, Dave keynoted the national Training conference, and in 2011, the ATD Chapter Leaders Conference. Dave received his bachelor of arts from University of New Hampshire.