Hospitals carve new pathways for nursing employment

As hospitals and health systems vie for nurses, they are becoming more creative with how they recruit, retain and develop workers. 

The needs of the workforce have continued to change across industries in the U.S. These needs have been influenced by various trends, including changing demographics and workers' continued desire for scheduling flexibility. 

Healthcare specifically has struggled with recruitment and retention in recent years and financial challenges. Last year was the worst financial year for hospitals and health systems since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, in June, the median year-to-date operating margin index for hospitals improved to 1.4 percent, according to Kaufman Hall, which bases its findings on data from more than 900 hospitals. 

Workers also continue to call it quits in healthcare and other industries, including construction, mining and logging, and manufacturing. Healthcare and social assistance saw 588,000 quits in May, up from 519,000 the previous month. The quits rate, or number of quits as a percentage of employment, was 2.8 percent in May, up from 2.4 percent in April and 2.6 percent in May 2022. 

With this in mind, nursing leaders are seeking recruitment and retention strategies for the short term and the long term while keeping workers' well-being in mind. 

One strategy being used is upskilling. For example, Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger launched its Nursing Scholars Program for employees in June 2021. According to a health system news release, the program awards $40,000 in financial support to each employee with a five-year work commitment as an inpatient nurse. The program is open to eligible employees who have worked with Geisinger for a year or more and are not already a nurse or provider.

"We are aware that many of our employees are keen to pursue a nursing career but need additional support from us in achieving their dreams," Janet Tomcavage, MSN, RN, chief nursing executive at Geisinger, said in the release. "This comprehensive nursing scholars' program is designed to provide financial, educational and well-being support for Geisinger employees who would like to become registered nurses." 

Hospitals and health systems are also eying collaborative approaches and technology. 

Earlier this year, Dignity Health Global Education, in partnership with Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, launched a yearlong nurse residency program.

And SSM Health, a 23-hospital health system based in St. Louis, added an on-demand workforce platform to fill staffing gaps and improve employee retention. The new platform stems from SSM Health's new agreement with staffing platform ShiftMed.

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