As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing is one of the most essential professions. It is one of the few roles that impacts virtually every community and at some of the most important moments in our lives. But hiring and retaining nursing talent can be a challenge. As a profession, nursing is expected to grow 9 percent by 2030, with approximately 194,500 roles opening each year. In this competitive hiring landscape, what can employers do to attract and keep nurses?

In honor of National Nurses Week in the US, May 6 to 12, Indeed surveyed 1,400 nurses with the job titles of registered nurse (RN), licensed vocational nurse (LVN) or certified nursing assistant (CNA) to gain insight into their priorities and how these have shifted during the pandemic. A closer look at these insights can help employers hire better today while also preparing for a more competitive market tomorrow.

99% of nurses are open to new opportunities or actively looking

Strikingly, our survey finds that nearly all nurses would consider changing jobs for the right opportunity. Only 1% report that they are happy in their current roles and have no intention of changing, down from 6% in 2021. Nearly half (46%) are actively seeking a new position, and 17% are weighing whether to begin a job search; meanwhile, another 36% are happy in their current roles but open to something new.

For nurses who are seeking a new role, money is the top factor, with 46% citing a desire for higher compensation. Meanwhile, 43% desire greater flexibility in schedule or shifts, up from 29% in 2021. In third place, 40% of nurses looking for a new job report career growth as their main motivator. And these job seekers are in the driver's seat. In a separate 2022 Indeed survey of healthcare employers on the state of hiring nurses, 60% say their biggest challenge is finding enough qualified candidates. 

When it comes to weighing the pros and cons of pursuing a new opportunity, nurses cite salary, flexibility and benefits as the most important factors. In contrast, they are not motivated by perks like tuition reimbursement or sign-on bonuses. An employer’s reputation also factors heavily: 83% of respondents report that this is “extremely” or “very important” when considering an opportunity. This suggests that building a strong employer brand can help employers hire nurses in today’s competitive market. 

Compensation and flexibility are important, but with a twist

The pandemic has upended work and life as we know it, and nursing is no exception. It’s no surprise, then, that nurses report shifting priorities in what they want on the job.

Thirty-nine percent of nurses predict that flexibility in scheduling and shifts will become more important job considerations once the pandemic is over. In fact, when presented with two hypothetical job offers — one that includes greater flexibility versus one that is less flexible but pays 10% more — 62% say they would be more likely to choose the flexible option. The pandemic also changed less tangible aspects of the workplace. For instance, a significant number of respondents believe that company culture (25%) and feeling appreciated by colleagues (28%) will be more important in the postpandemic landscape. Employers can leverage this insight to inform their talent-attraction strategy, emphasizing quality-of-life perks such as flexibility and a positive company culture to stand out. 

Employers would also be wise to cast a wider geographic net in their recruiting efforts. Significant proportions of nurses are willing to commute 10 to 25 miles (49%) or even 50 miles (21%) for the right role. What’s more, a surprising number say a bigger move is on the table: 20% are definitely open to relocating, while 26% would consider it. 

Adjust hiring strategies to match nurses’ shifting priorities

The past two years were tremendously challenging for healthcare professionals, and nurses were on the front lines. Like workers across many sectors, nurses now find shifting priorities and an openness to exploring new opportunities. For many, a fresh start is in the cards — or at least not off the table.

To attract these essential healthcare workers, employers should consider offering both financial incentives, such as competitive compensation, and in-demand lifestyle perks like flexibility, including flexible work schedules and paid-time-off options. Remember, nearly all nurses are open to changing roles if the right opportunity presents itself, and many are even open to a geographic move. A strong employer brand also goes a long way to attract potential talent.

By building these factors into a holistic hiring strategy, employers can stand out to nurses near and far — and gain a much-needed foothold in this challenging hiring environment.

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