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There have been shortages of nurses many times before, indeed even in 1956 The New York Times was writing headlines about the problem including “The nationwide shortage of nurses is likely to reach crisis proportions.”

However, although not a new problem, the current nursing crisis the US is facing is far worse than ever experienced before.

Indeed, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics although Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through to 2024, with the RN workforce expected to grow from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024, an increase of 439,300 or 16% the real problem lies in the numbers needed to replace those that are leaving the profession and to deal with a growth in need.

Indeed, the Bureau projects that the US need 649,100 extra nurses in the workforce, which will bring the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements to 1.09 million by 2024: twice the rate seen in previous shortages.

The present and predicted shortages are even more critical as we are faced with a growing and aging population, high volumes of nurses nearing retirement age and staffing levels that are contributing to increased stress levels and low levels of job satisfaction which is resulting in nurses choosing to leave the profession.

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However, one of the most significant problems is the number of qualified applicants that are being turned away from US nursing schools because of a lack of faculty staff, classroom space, clinical sites and budget constraints. Indeed, a report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) confirms that US nursing schools turned away a significant 64,067 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2016 alone. Plus, when you go back a decade, nursing schools have annually rejected around 30,000 applicants who met admissions requirements.

“It’s really a catch 22 situation,” said Robert Rosseter, spokesman for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “There’s tremendous demand from hospitals and clinics to hire more nurses,” he said. “There’s tremendous demand from students who want to enter nursing programs, but schools are tapped out.”

So where does this leave hospitals and other medical facilities? Desperate to try anything to recruit and retain nurses rather than turn patients away and this has resulted in many nurses being offered higher salaries, signing and retention bonuses and ever-increasing perks and bonuses including student loan repayment schemes, free housing, significant career development funding, career mentoring, free medical and even tuition payments for their children.

This new approach has left many shocked, in particular Seun Ross, director of nursing practice and work environment at the American Nurses Association, who commented “who knows what employers will come up with next?” Ross also went as far as saying that she worries that rich bonuses and creative perks may not go far enough to retain nurses in the long run. “What’s to stop nurses from accepting a job because of the perks and then hop to another hospital after two years because of their perks,” she said.

A better approach would be to invest in improving the work environment for nurses and offering better pay, career development and hours to help make sure they don’t burn out, she added. “All it takes is for one nurse to tell her friend that where she works is a great place for these reasons and applications will come in,” Ross said.

Establish a great culture is certainly going to help to attract and retain nursing staff, as will building relationships with nursing schools in the area to establish a connection and the ‘buy-in’ of students early. This can be achieved by getting your name heard throughout the school by sponsoring nursing awards and offering named scholarships.

However, relationship building will not solve the immediate need, this will require a more creative approach such as nationwide searches that offer extensive relocation packages and even new advertising targeting strategies such as geotargeting.

Geotargeting allows nursing recruiters to deliver cost effective recruitment advertising to people who meet a specific targeting criteria, which could include targeting locations, interests, demographics or even certain behaviours. For example, if a nursing conference is being held in a certain location you could target nurses on their mobile phones as they arrive at the venue.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, recently had a very successful geotargeting recruitment campaign targeting neo-natal nurses entering a specific location, including other hospitals in the defined location and those who were likely to be neo-natal nurses. The campaign resulted in the hospital hearing from 3 to 4 candidates a week when before they hardly ever received an application.

Another approach that many are finding very successful is the concept of starting a working relationship with an Offshore Recruitment Service (ORS) provider such as IMS People Possible.

IMS People Possible have been helping facilities across the USA survive the increasing nurse shortage by providing permanent and temporary nurses for many years and we are dedicated to fulfilling our clients nursing needs, on time and with highly qualified, experienced nurses who are pre-screened to ensure they can make a real contribution from day one.

When our clients select IMS People Possible as their ORS partner they gain access to our ability to attract nurses from a wide range of specialties who can fill even the challenging roles. Plus, our dedicated and customer service orientated healthcare recruiters take the time to thoroughly understand your needs, goals and challenges so we can provide you with nurses who are ideally suited to your facility and the roles on offer.

One thing is for sure, the US will need to look into ways of solving the nurses shortage crisis as turning patients away could be the least of their worries. Research published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies found that having inadequate numbers of registered nurses on staff made it more likely that a patient would die after common surgeries; something everyone needs and wants to avoid.

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