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Finding and keeping nurses

By Gayle Norton bio

The shortage of qualified nurses in many parts of the country poses hiring issues, especially for medical practices outside of metropolitan areas or those competing for talent with hospitals and/or other institutions such as assisted living facilities. In addition to an increasingly shallow pool of candidates, there is also a growing nursing skills shortage. As a result, many medical offices are transforming their talent acquisition approach to hire not just more nurses but those who have the skill set required to respond to the shifting roles and accountabilities of nurses at the front lines of patient care.

Today’s nurses need a different skill set to work effectively. This new skill set doesn’t replace “traditional” nursing skills with new ones – although certainly technology has changed many methodologies – but instead demands additional, non-traditional skills from nurses. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A “big picture” perspective. Nurses must treat the whole patient in what’s known as population health care and therefore knowledge of behavioral and social needs will be a much sought after competency. As one seasoned nursing supervisor put it, “We need to upskill professionals working in care models with accountability for populations in behavioral health, addiction, mental health, depression eating disorders, smoking cessation, and so forth.”
  • An understanding of care management. Nurses must understand care coordination along the entire continuum of care, including accountability for payment. The need is for “system thinkers” who can work across the entire system of care even as, in some cases, those systems are just being built.
  • Critical thinking. Nurses need to be well-versed in critical clinical and business thinking.

Given these challenges, what solutions are there to ease the pain of talent acquisition in the nursing profession?

Organizations must proactively tackle talent planning by assessing the type of talent that they need today, as well as three and five years from now. Then, examine current talent acquisition practices from a people, process, technology, and strategy perspective to see where there are potential gaps. Although requiring time and resources that are in short supply for most medical offices, identifying and acting on those gaps now will help fulfill current talent acquisition needs as well as prepare for the future. And finally, if you are having difficulty in filling positions with the quality of candidates you are looking for, utilize external resources to supplement your own recruitment efforts and help source the top talent you need. This will help you remain competitive and stay on the forefront in this era of continued change.

While finding nurses with the skills described above is a concern, the ability to fill open positions is only part of the problem. Retention is equally important: Statistics compiled by the American Nursing Association estimate that it costs between $62,100 and $67,100 to replace a single RN.

Certainly, nurses, as well as other employees, leave for reasons beyond anyone’s control. For example, long commutes time and/or lack of public transportation often play into the equation. On the other hand, a positive workplace culture can definitely help you retain great talent, even overriding other considerations. The reputation of your practice can impact your ability to not just hire, but also keep good people. While it may not be possible to iron-clad retention practices, medical practices should focus on rigorous and immediate on-boarding and training. Offer continuing training and opportunities to the many in the profession who are eager to keep pace with the changes by developing their personal skills.

Gayle Norton is Principal of TalentRISE, a Chicago-based management consulting firm specializing in talent acquisition. She co-leads the firm’s talent acquisition consulting practice and focuses her efforts on helping companies conduct current state recruitment optimization and talent risk organizational assessments to identify and address process, technology and strategy gaps.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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