Insights from a Nurse Recruiter

In a recent report released by the American Organization of Nurse Executives, it was estimated that by the year 2010 the average age of a registered nurse in the United States will be over 45, and approximately 40% will be over 50 years old. At the same time, the first of the countries baby boomers will begin to retire and become eligible for Medicare, greatly increasing the demand for medical services. Thousands of nurses are expected to be among those retiring, resulting in an unprecedented shortage of nurses. Hospitals and long-term care facilities have already begun to feel the pressure of this shortage and have turned to outside recruiting firms to help them with their staffing needs. But where and how do recruiting firms find these nurses when hospitals cannot? To be a nurse recruiter, it takes a lot of creativity, a strong understanding of the medical world, and persistence. With the sinking economy, many recruiting firms have moved into the healthcare industry to keep themselves afloat during these hard times. But even the best recruiters may have a hard time recruiting nurses. Here are some of the ways that experienced nurse recruiters go about finding and recruiting nurses every day. Understanding the Candidate With good reason, nurses demand the respect that they have earned. If you cannot communicate with them on a professional and clinical level they will not trust you to help them advance their career. If you do not know the difference between a nurse practitioner and licensed practical nurse you will insult them. If you don’t understand the difference between the emergency room and the critical care unit, your clients will not trust you. To be a successful nurse recruiter, you must have a clear understanding of the medical field. The best nurse recruiters are often those who have worked in the healthcare industry in the past and can relate to their candidates on both a personal and professional level. Most recruiters rely on the Internet to provide them with qualified candidates. With so many niche sites popping up everyday, it is often assumed that nurses would use them to help advance their career. This, however, is a great misconception. Internet sites like,,, and are always helpful in locating qualified nurses, but they cannot be relied on alone. Nurses in general aren’t avid users of computers or the Internet. Often, they do not even have an updated resume, if they have one at all. Posting jobs and pulling resumes off of job boards can help fill jobs every now and then, but recruiting from the Internet alone will spell failure for you in the long run. Back to Basics To be a successful nurse recruiter, you need to get back to the recruiting basics that so many of us have recently abandoned. Finding qualified people is often very difficult. A hospital is not going to provide you with a list of their employees so that you take can pilfer from them. So where do we find them? A hospital might give you someone’s name if you can provide a reason for them to give it to you. This can often be difficult. There are some recruiters who are very good at this form of name gathering and can spend an hour or two on the phone calling hospitals and other healthcare facilities to produce a list of potential candidates. The Internet can also come in handy for name gathering. There are many healthcare organizations and societies that have web sites. These sites often have membership directories. By gaining access to the directories, you will gain a list of potential new candidates. Take time each week exploring the Internet to find new websites and resources. Getting in contact with local chapters is a great networking tool. Getting the job orders is the easy part of nurse recruiting. But if you cannot fill them, your clients will look elsewhere for help. It is important to remember that a healthcare facility is not going to give you an order for a position that they can easily fill on their own. Generally, a hospital will ask for help filling management and senior level positions. In New York City, the average nurse manager will earn somewhere between $70,000 and $90,000 a year. As recruiters, we are often motivated in selling the idea of career advancement to our candidates. A Nurse Manager is not an easy job. They have 24-hour responsibilities, which include handling their unit’s budget and making sure that their unit is fully staffed (something not so easy with the shortage of nurses out there). It is a very stressful job that many nurses simply do not want. The average staff nurse in New York City, with several years of experience and a Bachelor’s Degree, will earn close to 70,000 dollars per year, and they will not have any of the added responsibilities. When their shift is through they go home and do not have to think about work until the next day. A large majority of staff nurses do not want to be a unit manager, and no matter how much money you offer them, they will not accept the position. The best way to recruit a Nurse Manager is to find one working somewhere else, and offer them the opportunity to work in a facility that has better resources or a better salary. Cold Calling Cold calling and networking are the best ways to fill these positions. If anyone has forgotten what cold calling is, cold calling refers to picking up the phone and calling someone with whom you have never spoken, getting them interested in a job that you are currently trying to fill, getting their resume, and sending them out on an interview. Anyone who has spent five minutes doing this knows it is easier said than done. Not everyone is comfortable with cold calling. There is a lot of rejection involved in it, and at times pride and ego are put on the line. Cold calling does not have to be scary. It needs to be looked at as a game, and you need to believe in what you are selling. As recruiters, all we are selling is the idea of a better job, more money, a better facility, and better benefits. You need to believe that this is so. If you do not believe in the company you are working for, it will reflect in your voice, and no one will believe in you. You need to be able to answer questions that your candidate might ask you. You should always know how many beds are in the unit they will be working on, what the nurse to patient ratio is, and whom they will be reporting to. By providing your candidates with as much information as possible, you will have significantly better results on the phone. If you do not know the answer to a question raised, never lie and make something up. This will always come back to haunt you. Simply tell them that you are not sure but you will find out for them shortly. Honesty is always the best policy. As much as we would love to send everyone we speak with on an interview, this will obviously not happen. When recruiting nurses, a successful cold call can be looked at as introducing yourself to the nurse and gathering information about them that you do not currently possess. Often, a nurse will tell you that they are very happy where they are or that they are not interested in the position that you are describing. There are two important questions that need to be asked: “What would entice you to make a move?” and, “Do you know anyone who is qualified for this position that might be interested in hearing about it?” These are important questions that can provide you with new leads, and can give you valuable information about your candidate that you can you use down the line. You might not have the job they are looking for today, but you might tomorrow. Just remember that people will hang up on you, people will not return your calls, and people will be rude to you at times. Is this really so bad? Is there any reason that your ego and pride cannot handle this? If there is, you are probably in the wrong profession. The opposite will also happen. For every 20 calls you make, if you find that one person interested in learning about new career opportunities, then the first 19 hang-ups and unreturned calls were worth it. Keeping Up the Relationship It is important to be in constant communication with the nurses that are responsive to your phone calls. As simple and obvious as this may sound, we often lose touch with some of our candidates, and they can often our best resource. Make sure that everyone you speak with has your business card. Call them once a month to see how they are doing and if anything has changed at worked, and run a couple of jobs that you are working on by them. See if they know anyone who would be interested learning more about them. Always ask them if they know of anyone who is looking. The goal is to essentially have them do the recruiting for you, and you want to be the first person they call in the event that they decide to look for a new job. The more persistent you are, and the more you treat the people you speak to with respect, the more they will respond to you and refer to you their colleagues. Being a successful nurse recruiter is never going to be an easy job. It takes patience, creativity, and an understanding of today’s demands on the healthcare world. But through persistent work developing a network of contacts and getting back to the basics of recruiting, one can make a difficult career a little less complicated.

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Joshua Albucker ( is an executive recruiter at The Tuttle Agency in New York City. He specializes in placing healthcare professionals on a permanent, full-time basis. Prior to beginning his career as an executive recruiter, Joshua spent several years working in the healthcare industry. He has a strong understanding of today?s medical needs. The Tuttle Agency harbors a core assemblage of highly talented and dedicated staffing consultants who have united to found a preeminent placement firm, specializing in all categories of personnel.


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