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This Top Nursing School Knows What Young Nurses Want and How to Engage Them

Without nursing educators, there would be no nurses. Harriet Feldman addresses both needs at the Lienhard School of Nursing. Her insights provide a window into today’s flourishing nursing pipeline.

This Top Nursing School Knows What Young Nurses Want and How to Engage Them

By: John Rossheim

As every healthcare staffing company knows, sourcing experienced nurses for clinical positions is difficult. Harder still is recruiting nursing school teachers, says Harriet Feldman, Ph.D., RN, dean of the Lienhard School of Nursing and the College of Health Professions at Pace University in New York. 

Feldman is a master of both sides of nursing. She’s been leading the charge to grow the nursing talent pipeline at Lienhard for 25 years while simultaneously growing its nursing school faculty—no easy feat in today’s current landscape. 

The key to recruiting all-important educators, she says, is to build a solid reputation for quality and innovation in education, and to graduate nurses who will lead the field. “We have terrific outcomes–close to 100 percent of our graduates pass the NCLEX licensing exam right away–and this helps attract faculty.” 

We spoke with Feldman and other nursing educators at Lienhard about how their graduates are being recruited and what these young nurses want from employers.  

Lienhard’s graduates are heavily recruited
Student and faculty recruitment has flourished in recent years at Lienhard. “We’ve had some of the largest classes ever for our nursing programs,” says Feldman. The school’s accelerated nursing program has seen graduating classes grow from 59 in 2015 to 70 in 2016 and 86 in 2017; four-year graduates have hovered near 70. 

As these efforts intensify, Feldman sees more employers coming to campus to recruit new nursing grads. “Providers grab up our graduates. Within six months, well over 90 percent are employed.”

Healthcare staffing firms don’t usually recruit on campus, but they do inform Lienhard’s faculty of openings for nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, according to the school’s career services office. Agencies have increasingly sought to partner with the school, saying that students who have passed the NCLEX but are still seeking a permanent job could work in a temporary role and continue to build their resumes.

Lienhard is opening up another sourcing channel for recruiters by collaborating with more clinical partners. “Last year we were approached by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to better prepare nurses to work in the oncology setting,” Feldman says. “We partnered with them to develop an oncology elective, which is held in their facilities.” Similarly, she’s working with other hospitals on neonatal and operating room electives.

Today’s nurses know what they want 
What are Millennial nurses and Gen Z nurses looking for in an employer? It turns out they want a healthy workplace culture. “Our students expect to have strong mentorship by seasoned nurses and feel supported and valued by colleagues, and the institution,” says Rhonda Maneval, Ed.D., RN, executive associate dean for academic nursing at Lienhard.

Lienhard takes a generation-conscious approach to making potential nurse educators feel comfortable with moving into this role as well. 

Mentoring appeals to the Millennial generation," says Feldman. “Within our school, the faculty is nurturing and supportive. For those who are interested, we offer scholarships to develop teaching skills; we mentor faculty in training on classroom strategies, how to connect with students, and so on.” 

What about the ratio of male and female students? At 13 percent, the proportion of male nursing graduates is growing, says Feldman, but gender balance remains a challenge. “Stereotypes persist, making it difficult for men to choose nursing as a career, especially in their younger years. Much of the growth in the percentage of males is in our accelerated, career-change BSN program.”

Boosting recruitment of scarce nurse educators
Despite her optimism, Feldman says, “we still can’t serve all qualified applicants because of limited availability of nursing faculty and clinical sites. We don’t have enough doctorally prepared nurses to go around.”

Lienhard has taken steps to ameliorate the shortage. “We’ve consolidated clinical sections, so we need fewer part-time faculty.” In addition, 20 percent of the curriculum that was once covered in clinicals is now taught in larger simulation sections.

Lienhard’s first step is to appeal to nurses who feel a calling to teach and then offer rigorous, systematic and humane support throughout the long process of becoming an instructor or professor. 

When it comes to sourcing for faculty jobs, “a lot of it is word of mouth,” she says. Lienhard is also pioneering a long-term recruitment pipeline with Grow Our Own, a program for developing nurses into doctorate-prepared faculty that includes meetings with the dean.

The growth in tuition from more students has enabled the school to grow its full-time faculty. And in the fall of 2017, Lienhard launched its own Ph.D. program in nursing; some graduates may become nurse educators within the school.

Lienhard puts a premium on faculty diversity
The nursing school has been very successful in recruiting a diverse faculty. “In the fall of 2016, close to 40 percent of faculty will be from underrepresented groups, which is unheard of,” says Feldman. “Some faculty members are attracted here because we have a diverse student body; they want to be role models.”

Some 33 percent of faculty belong to minority groups, including the 18 percent of full-time faculty who identify as minorities.

Lienhard and rival nursing schools will need to keep innovating in order to successfully meet the faculty recruitment challenge, especially given the advancing age of faculty members. Feldman sees signs of hope; she says that some recent faculty hires are “younger” (in their 40s.)

School helps students explore many avenues for funding
“Part of the challenge of embarking on a teaching career is that the training is pretty costly,” says Feldman. Deepening the challenge, nurses with advanced degrees typically receive higher pay in practice settings than they can in teaching.

In response, Lienhard offers advice and assistance with federal, state and private grant and loan forgiveness programs that can help nurses and nursing students envision a financially viable path to teaching. “We work to generate interest in teaching among our own undergraduate nursing students,” says Feldman.
“The funding that we receive–the federal Nurse Faculty Loan Program–we’ve had it for years,” says Feldman. “But everything is up for grabs. We don’t know how long this funding will continue.” That uncertainty may leave an opening for employers to step in with financial support for student nurses.

Feldman sees a promising future for her graduates. “Employers are happy with our students,” she says. “They say our students know what they’re doing, they’re hard workers, and they don’t have an attitude.” That’s great news for recruiters who know how to engage these graduates, including more mature students as well as younger Gen Z graduates.