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Sharp HealthCare Pulls Out All the Stops to Attract Healthcare Professionals

Maintaining a robust healthcare recruiting pipeline is no easy task in today’s challenging healthcare labor market. That’s why Sharp HealthCare taps a variety of sourcing channels to cultivate talent.

Sharp HealthCare Pulls Out All the Stops to Attract Healthcare Professionals

By: John Rossheim 

If you think you have it bad when it comes to finding talent, chances are, Sharp Healthcare in San Diego has it worse. 

The company’s 18,500-person workforce includes 6,000 nurses. And if you’re in health care recruiting, you know all too well how hard it is to find nurses today.  

“Nurses are in the driver’s seat in selecting where they want to go,” says Elmerissa Sheets, director of talent acquisition for Sharp, which includes seven hospitals and three medical groups with more than 2,000 physicians. “The challenge right now, as it has been for years, is to find nurses with one to five years of experience. It’s especially difficult in the ICU, the emergency department, labor and delivery.” 

And it won’t get any easier anytime soon. Boomers are starting to retire and nursing graduates numbers are shrinking in proportion to the population. Nursing graduates per 100,000 U.S. residents rose from 35.8 in 2001 to 66.4 in 2012. That count shrunk to 61.8 in 2016, according to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Even in this difficult environment, Sharp’s sharp recruiting strategies have enabled the organization to win the healthcare talent crucial to carrying out its mission. So what are they doing right? They shared their insights with Monster—and what they’ve learned could help you hire too.   

Using multichannel to fill thousands of reqs 
Sharp fills hundreds of nurse openings each year. To staff those and thousands of other positions, the health system uses diverse sourcing channels. “We do pretty much everything,” says Sheets. “We do social media, job boards, career fairs, conferences and email blasts to association lists.”

While Sharp has moved away from Facebook ads, “we get a substantial number of applications via Google paid clicks,” Sheets says. “It’s part of our strategy, not the only piece. We use many channels, paid and organic.” Sharp also has many career videos on Youtube.

Still, with Millennials and younger Generation Z candidates, much comes down to Google, according to Sheets. “When I talk to Millennials, they say they just do a Google search on employers.” The system’s career site gets a lot of traffic that is seeking opportunities for physician assistants, RNs, nursing assistants, medical assistants and medical secretaries.

Going back to college to recruit grads
To stock its recruitment pipeline, Sharp maintains relationships with a number of educational institutions. “We do college recruitment for nurses and physical therapists, even if we aren’t likely to hire them straight out of school,” says Sheets. 

“We do a lot of campus recruitment,” she says. Sharp has recruiting relationships with a number of nearby schools, including the University of California, San Diego; UC Irvine; Cal Poly; University of San Diego; San Diego State University; San Diego City College; Pomona College and Grossmont College. 

The relocation equation
Current and projected shortages of registered nurses in the United States as a whole mask large state variations in supply and demand, says a 2017 report from the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. California, New Jersey, South Carolina and Texas are forecast to have shortages in excess of 10,000 RNs per state by 2030. By contrast, Florida, New York, Ohio and Virginia each expect an excess supply of 18,000 nurses or more.

These differences represent opportunities for recruiters to woo and relocate nurses to higher-demand regions. The challenge in recruiting a promising grad from Ohio to California, for example, is to close the cost-of-living gap.

The high cost of living makes it hard to find people willing to relocate to San Diego, Sheets says. “The reality of relocating nurses who are looking at homes that average $500,000 versus maybe $200,000 where they live is a considerable barrier.”

The tough sell of relocation may be more appealing to candidates who are ready for a change of life. “It also depends where the candidates are in their lives,” says Sheets. “The ones without families may be more mobile.”

Branding for quality, caring and candidate experience
These strategies are just tactics. What knits them together is Sharp’s employer brand, which keeps the recruitment engine stoked through consistent marketing of what the company stands for. 

“We’ve built a very good brand in the San Diego market,” says Sheets. Sharp publicizes its status as a nursing magnet hospital and does branding with everything from quick pop-up ads to multi-channel campaigns that feature tag lines like, “Do what you love.”

“Generation Z wants to see a sense of authenticity, to see if the culture is what we say it is,” says Sheets. “We emphasize growth opportunities within our organization.” Students go to social media both to see how Sharp presents itself, and to glean what the system’s employees are saying about their colleagues and the organization.

A mentoring program for nurses also helps to enhance Sharp’s employer brand. “Our very robust mentorship program, which is a one-year residency for new RNs, gets thousands of applications,” Sheets says. The mentoring program has the indirect but powerful effect of signaling that someone will be there to support them, especially through the often stressful novice year of nursing.

A great candidate experience is also critical. “Job search has become so automated; without the personal touch, candidates sometimes feel a disconnect,” says Sheets. “A lot of Millennials prefer face-to-face and phone contact. We reach out as much as we can, but it’s a big challenge with the number of candidates that come through. So we’re also working to improve the messaging in automatic responses from our ATS.” 

What’s the big takeaway here? As Sharp has found, successful healthcare recruiting requires an armful of sourcing channels and a portfolio of strategies. Knowing where and when to use those tools is essential. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is just how critical it is to have a robust employer brand that speaks to today's value-focused candidates, whether near or far.