Getting Ahead of the Nursing Shortage Through Innovation and Technology
By Iman Abuzeid, M.D.
There are approximately three million nurses in the U.S., 700,000 of which are projected to retire or leave the workforce within the next six years. Filling these vacancies will require more than one million new registered nurses.(1) Even today, nearly 200,000 nursing positions sit unfilled at any given time.(2) One thing is certain: If our existing recruiting methods can’t handle today’s shortage, they aren’t going to handle tomorrow’s.
The problem with traditional recruiting processes
Most hospitals depend on online job posting sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, and their own job board. Yet this approach is resource-heavy, time consuming, costly and ineffective. Based on research by Incredible Health, a tech-enabled, data driven, healthcare career marketplace, a typical hospital in a busy urban area would need to screen 500 online applicants to identify just 50 potential candidates leading to the hire of just one person. That’s a hire rate of just 0.2%. Hospital job boards are only slightly higher at 2.6%. (3)
To address the shrinking candidate pool, many hospitals have begun offering elaborate sign-on bonuses, some reaching as high as six-figures. For rural hospitals with fewer candidates, the challenge is even greater. Convincing candidates from urban areas to relocate to a small town can be difficult. In response, some hospitals have begun offering free dorm-type housing for candidates who don’t want to move.(4)
Outsourcing can be an appealing alternative for hospitals with limited recruiting staff. But handing the process over to a third party can be costly, especially in today’s competitive environment. It is not unheard of for agencies to charge up to 20% of a candidate’s salary, which can be as much as $20,000 or more per hire.(5) Outsourcing also carries an element of risk as hospitals give up control of the candidate experience. In a recent study of nurses in high-shortage locations around the U.S., respondents cited everything from poorly written introductory letters to unfriendly reps to delayed and even a complete lack of responses. Several said the reps did not present the offer or the company in a positive or compelling manner. For many, the negative experiences were enough to impact their decision.(6)
The cost of inefficiency
A 2016 report by Barclays indicates the average 300 to 500-bed hospital loses nearly $90,000 a day when understaffed.(7) By increasing the number of registered nurses, hospitals stand to save up to $3 billion from reduced hospital stays and adverse events.(8) According to the Safe Staffing for Nurse and Patient Safety Act, suboptimal staffing levels also increases readmissions, which Medicare estimates at $26 billion a year overall.(9)
In addition to increased costs, studies show a significant correlation between low staffing, quality of care, and mortality as well.(10) When positions remain unfilled, existing nursing staff have to work to fill the gap, taking on additional shifts and working longer hours. When quality suffers, so does patient satisfaction and a hospital’s HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Star Ratings.
Taking a page from dating apps
Technology has transformed the way people connect. Rather than relying on family, friends or chance to identify an ideal partner, individuals can now turn to online dating apps. To use the app, members create profiles and indicate what they find most desirable in a partner. The app’s algorithms sort through multiple data points in the member database to identify ideal candidates. Users are presented with only those best meeting their criteria and who are actively looking. By eliminating all others, users can find their ideal partner faster and with less effort. Today, one in three marriages begins online.(11)
Incredible Health takes a similar approach to healthcare recruiting. Through its proprietary screening technology, Incredible Health is able to quickly identify the best matches for both a hospital and a clinician. When recruiters from multiple hospitals sends interview requests to candidates, the candidate gets to decide which interview to accept or decline. Its extensive, dynamic database of experienced nurses includes 58% with specialty experience like ER, OR, Critical Care, L&D and Cath Lab, and 16% are experienced RN managers and directors. The average tenure is 12.9 years and all nurses hold current state licenses and certifications. Requirements to be included in the database are stringent; only the top 25% of nurse applicants are accepted.
Today, 60% of California hospitals use Incredible Health to help find registered nurses.
A large health system in the greater Los Angeles area had more than 150 nurse and nurse leadership vacancies across its six hospitals. Best practice for filling positions necessary to keep hospitals fully staffed is 25 days; however, the health system was experiencing 70 days or longer, especially for hard-to-fill areas and nurse leadership. The health system chose to partner with Incredible Health to improve its sourcing and hiring processes. With just one hour of training, the recruiting team at the health system was up and running. The results were fast and significant:
Not changing is not an option
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This famous quote can easily be applied to the healthcare recruiting process. To protect hospital revenue and ensure quality outcomes, hospitals and health systems need to take steps now to get ahead of the quickly escalating nursing shortage.
Leveraging technology like Incredible Health can help hospitals flip the script on the recruitment process, dramatically shortening their sourcing and hiring cycles with better results, less effort, and reduced cost per hire.
7 2016 Barclays US Healthcare Facilities Outlook Report