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How To Work With Nurse Recruiters

Efficiently hiring qualified candidates can be difficult in any industry, but it’s especially crucial in healthcare. Nurses are vital to the operation of a hospital or healthcare facility. According to the United States Registered Nurse Workforce Report Card and Shortage Forecast, a nursing shortage is already happening and is expected to continue through 2030.

This shortage makes hiring nurses incredibly competitive, which is why more healthcare facilities and hospitals are turning to nursing recruiters. But is using nurse recruiters the best way to address your hiring needs quickly? Let’s take a closer look at how nurse recruiters operate, the pros and cons of using one and tips for working with them.

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What is a nurse recruiter?

A nurse recruiter is an HR professional who specializes in researching, assessing, finding and hiring nurse practitioners for the facilities that are hiring. A background in nursing isn’t needed to be a nurse recruiter, but having some experience in the nursing field can make it easier to understand the types of qualifications needed for each job posting.

Nursing recruiters are primarily responsible for the following tasks:

Many nurse recruiters may build up their own “database” of clients to work with. For example, a common practice is recruiting nursing students on campus so they have a steady stream of candidates each graduating year.

How to hire a nurse recruiter for your hospital

A nurse recruiter is often a third-party agent working for a hiring agency. Hospitals and healthcare organizations contract these agencies when they need to fill vacant roles quickly.

Sometimes, hospitals and healthcare centers hire internal nurse recruiters to work full-time within the organization.

If you’re looking to work with an agency that gives you access to nurse recruiters, you’ll want to take the following steps:

  • Research online what agencies are available in your area. You may prefer working with an agency with a local office, as that means they’re more likely to have a database of local candidates and be familiar with your state’s nurse employee laws and regulations.

  • Read the reviews for the agencies you’re considering. There’s a lot of competition within the nurse recruiter industry, and you only want to work with the best agencies.

  • Interview each agency. You’ll need to understand their fees and promises around time-to-hire.

  • Hire an agency. As soon as you get access to nurse recruiters, you can have them start working on filling your open nurse roles as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, if you choose to hire an internal recruiter for nursing jobs, you’ll need to follow the typical steps for hiring an employee:

  • Create a job description with key responsibilities

  • Post the role

  • Assess applications

  • Interview candidates

  • Make an offer

The benefits of using nurse recruiters

There are many benefits when employers work with nurse recruiters to fill their vacancies, including:

  • Hiring can be quicker. Nurse recruiters typically have access to a vast database of candidates they can immediately pull from to cross-check against your posting. This means there may be little delay between posting a vacancy and waiting for applications. As soon as you hand a job opening to a nurse recruiter, they can likely start contacting potential candidates.

  • Fill specialized roles quickly. Sometimes, you have a specialized nursing role, such as a nurse with neuro, surgical and trauma (NeST) experience. These roles are typically challenging to fill, but using a nurse recruiter can make it much easier. Nurse recruiters tend to have contacts outside the local region, giving them access to a wide network. And filing a specialized role can typically be done more quickly if you’re willing to expand your candidate pool to those out of state who are willing to do a travel contract or relocate.

The drawbacks of using nurse recruiters

Employers considering using a nurse recruiter should be aware of some of the drawbacks of this choice:

  • Miscommunication can happen. The hospital or healthcare facility must outline clear expectations with their nurse recruiter. If a job description is vague or unclear, the nurse recruiter can bring forward candidates who are not the right fit, which can extend the hiring process. One way to avoid this situation is by hiring a highly experienced nurse recruiter who understands typical roles and will have the confidence to question any unknowns.

  • Hiring approaches may differ. Most organizations have a preference for their hiring methods, whether it’s to evaluate as many candidates as possible (quantity) or focus on a select few and analyze each one thoroughly (quality). Mention your preference to your nurse recruiter so they don’t operate in a different style. For example, a hospital that values seeing an average of a dozen applicants throughout the interview process per role may be disappointed with a nursing recruiter who narrows the hiring choices and only brings forward two to three candidates.

  • Fees: As you likely guessed, a nursing recruiter charges a fee for their services. Ultimately, filing a role is never free. You must either devote internal HR resources to the hiring process or outsource it to an external agency. Still, a nursing recruiter is likely a slightly higher cost than using your internal hiring team. Nurse recruiters typically charge a one-time fee per successful hire or a percentage of the hire’s annual salary.

7 tips for working with nursing recruiters

If you do choose to work with a nursing recruiter for your hospital, here are some tips to follow to ensure the working relationship is successful:

  • Determine if they have experience in your area. Ultimately, a recruiter will have the quickest hire rates if they have a database of candidates in your area. Using an out-of-state recruiter will likely have less success for your overall hiring goals.

  • Ask for a reference before you hire an agency. If the agency is experienced and has a happy clientele base, they should be able to provide you with a contact at another hospital with positive feedback.

  • Negotiate the price. The nursing recruiter agency knows that it operates in a competitive industry. Ask for a quote and then consider negotiating a lower rate.

  • Set your expectations. It’s essential to ask the nurse recruiter for their averages in the hiring process. You may want to hear the average number of candidates they bring forward for interviews, the average number of applicants they review per job and the average length of time it takes to hire. These details can help you set realistic expectations for what your nursing recruiter can deliver.

  • Always ask for feedback on job descriptions. Your nurse recruiter has seen dozens (or hundreds) of variations of job descriptions for each nursing role. Leverage their expertise and let them know you’re open to feedback on the job description. They likely can elevate it so that it’s enticing to candidates.

  • Have an open line of communication. Ensure you establish an open line of communication with your nurse recruiters so they feel comfortable coming to you with clarifying questions, suggestions and concerns.

  • Ask for regular updates. Set up an expectation from the very start that you would like weekly updates on the progress of all your roles. This holds your nurse recruiter accountable and keeps you informed on what to expect.

Is a nurse recruiter right for my hospital?

Ultimately, only you know if working with a nurse recruiter is suitable for your hospital. However, if you are finding that you have many nursing vacancies—and are expecting an influx of openings—a nursing recruiter may be the right choice.

The good news is that you can always try a nurse recruiter and drop them if they aren’t meeting your expectations.

The key to success here is finding a reputable, experienced nurse recruiter who can get qualified candidates in your area.

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