Twenty-six years ago, the annual National Nurses Week was born in the U.S. Beginning every year on May 6 and concluding May 12 (the birthday of rock-star nurse Florence Nightingale), the week is designed to pay tribute to the vital contributions of America’s registered nurses (RNs).

It’s been said that “constant attention by a good nurse may be just as important as a major operation by a surgeon.” Nurses have always been the heart of the medical profession (pun intended), and the importance of their nurturing care under what can be extremely adverse conditions can’t be overestimated.

But these days, RNs can be hard for employers to attract and hire. Here, we’ll explain why nurses are in short supply. We’ll also offer tips for improving your nursing recruitment strategies, inspired by an Indeed survey of 1,050 U.S. nursing job seekers in 2018.

Healthcare is booming, but where are the nurses?

Healthcare, as an industry, is exploding. Compared to all other jobs posted in 2018 on Indeed by industry, healthcare had the largest percentage. Not only is the healthcare industry America’s largest employer, nursing is now the largest profession within the U.S. healthcare sector.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that more than 200,000 new RN positions will be created every year from 2016 to 2026. Along with mathematicians and genetic counselors, RN is among the fastest-growing jobs with the highest pay in the U.S. The RN position is among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2026, expanding 15% by 2026. Today, there are 4.7 million nurses in the U.S.

But it’s not enough. By 2022, there will be more unfilled RN jobs than in any other profession: An additional 1.1 million RNs will be needed to avoid a shortage, with some states hit harder than others.

Why the nursing supply can’t meet the demand

Several factors are contributing to the nursing supply-and-demand imbalance:

The population is aging. The number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double by 2060, reaching nearly 100 million. With more Americans now living longer, chronic illnesses will inevitably put a growing burden on our healthcare system — hence, an increased need for RNs.

The nursing population is aging, too — and retiring. The average age of employed RNs increased from 42.7 years in 2000 to 44.6 years in 2010. The 2017 National Nursing Workforce Study puts the average age even higher, at 51. Consequently, about 1 million RNs are expected to retire by 2030.

Nursing schools can’t keep up. In 2018, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants due to insufficient faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical instructors and budget to accommodate them. As a result, the supply of newly qualified RNs is out of alignment with the growing demand.

Robots aren’t likely to fill the gap. In Japan, nurse robots are supplementing the healthcare of some elderly patients. But human nurses provide patients with important things robots can’t.

“Even our most sophisticated robots can only pretend to build relationships, empathize or show other forms of emotional intelligence to create personal connections with people,” says Mark Williams, head of product at HR and employee engagement software developer People First (as quoted in Fast Company).

Strategies to help your company stand out to nurses

In this competitive marketplace, you’ll need to employ clever strategies to stand out and attract the best nursing candidates. Here are three to get you started:

Know what nurses want — and give it to them. Nearly 300,000 nursing-related job searches happen daily on Indeed. Our data can provide insights into what nurses are searching for and what they want, which gives you an edge.

For example, our data reveals that even though 63% of nurses say they’re “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their jobs, 87% have searched online job listings within the prior year, and 40% are actively investigating new opportunities.

Why? Due to insufficient staffing in many healthcare organizations, nurses often feel overworked and stressed, which can impact job satisfaction and provoke interest in a new position. This, in turn, offers an opportunity for employers in need of nursing staff.

You can best leverage this opportunity if you know what most nurses are looking for. According to our survey data, nurses want scheduling flexibility and work-life balance — which often take priority over salary. When recruiting nurses, highlight these benefits along with opportunities for growth, training and upward mobility at your organization.

Get creative. In such a competitive market, healthcare organizations must find new ways to attract and retain nursing talent. For example, Mercy Hospital in St. Louis recently gave its nurses the flexibility to work in any of its five local hospitals, rather than having to report to the same hospital every day.

According to a hospital manager, the program breaks up the monotony and gives nurses more flexibility without forfeiting any of their seniority. And, as mentioned above, flexibility and balance are highly valued in the nursing world.

Make your interactions count. Twenty-six percent of nurses say they’re contacted by recruiters several times weekly, according to Indeed data. With so many other potential employers vying for attention, you must stand out from the contenders.

Personalizing your communications is an effective strategy. Rather than pushing out the same generic email to 100 candidates, consider sending personalized messages to fewer candidates. This takes extra work, but it’s well worth the effort.

Throughout your interactions, point out reasons specific to the individual that demonstrate why they’d be a good fit. Pay attention to how their background and the values they express align with your organization’s mission and goals. Find things you can offer that they don’t have in their current position, from minor perks (such as free snacks in the break room) to major ones (such as sponsored training).

Show your differentiators — and your appreciation

Nursing is a high-growth field that presents job seekers with plenty of opportunities — and employers with plenty of competition. To increase your chances of attracting and retaining top talent, emphasize professional development, flexibility, work-life balance programs and other unique perks. Know what nurses are looking for, and stand out with a personalized approach.

And don’t forget to show how much your organization values its nurses — not just during National Nurses Week, but every day of the year.    

Indeed Celebrates National Nurses Week

Indeed is excited to celebrate 2019 National Nurses Week.

We’re sending celebration emails with a custom "How to Succeed in Your New Job" Career Guide and a $5 Starbucks gift card offer to nurses who found their jobs on Indeed.

To support aspiring nurses, we will be delivering an Indeed Job Search Journey workshop to approximately 60 participants of Amazon's Career Choice program for healthcare careers to educate them on how to leverage Indeed to find their next job.

Employers: Sign up for our webinar, “Registered Nurses: Diagnosing Job Search Behavior.”