Providers struggle to hire and retain nurses

In theory it should be easy for hospitals and health systems to hire nurses. Despite a shortage of nurses in the health workforce, there is a growing pool of potential candidates to fill open slots. Yet it can take healthcare organizations as long as 50 days to hire a registered nurse.

There are several reasons for the hiring delays, according to an article from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Many hospitals and healthcare systems seek out nursing job applicants with a bachelor’s degree or other advanced degrees, as well as work experience. Yet in some states, many nurses entering the workforce may need only their nursing license to apply for jobs.

In states like New York, for instance, registered nurses outnumber the available positions, so providers have raised the bar and now require a bachelor's degree, as Jean Moore, director of the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany, told Pew.

Nursing programs have trouble keeping up with the growing demand for more specialized nurses, too, according to the article. It is hard for RNs to get the experience they need to fill high-pressure roles, such as working in the operating room or emergency department, because they can't practice on patients until they receive their license. 

Some providers tackle the problem by developing their own in-house training and internship programs to compensate for those gaps in training. However, the article noted, training programs can be expensive, and can only cater to so many nurses at a time.

Another challenge: Providers struggle to retain the nurses they do hire. Open jobs may just languish unfilled solely on cost, according to the article. And the unfilled jobs can put workload pressure on nurses, putting them at greater risk for burnout and stress.

But Houston Methodist has found a way to tackle the hiring and retention problem simultaneously, according to the article. The nonprofit healthcare organization created a six-month residency program for nurses at its hospitals, and it hires about 350 bachelor’s degree graduates each year. The program not only helps better train new staff members, the article noted, but also creates a supportive work environment that encourages new hires to stay.