We’ve heard a lot of talk about the nursing shortage as of late. As the baby boomers continue to retire and the U.S. looks for ways to reduce costs while keeping pace with rising demand for healthcare services, the country needs nurses now more than ever before. More people are living with chronic conditions than in years past, further driving up demand for experienced healthcare providers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the registered nurse workforce is expected to grow from 2.9 million in 2016 to 3.4 million in 2026, an increase of 438,100 or 15%. The Bureau also projects the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.
If your organization is looking to fill empty positions or create a sustainable pipeline of talent so you can fill future positions with ease, learn how you can partner with local colleges and universities to better serve your patients.
The Tradition of Hospitals Partnering with Local Colleges and Universities
The idea of healthcare organizations working with the academic community is not new. In the early 20th Century, aspiring nurses were more likely to work in apprenticeships at hospitals than enroll at a local university. Hospitals recruited talented, aspiring professionals and taught them the ins and outs of the job. This crash-course in healthcare was just enough to get nurses started in their new positions. Hospitals even started creating their own internal nursing programs. Students could enroll and then go to work for the same hospital after graduation.
However, the science of healthcare is much more advanced today than it was back then. As the years went on and practicing medicine became more complex, hospitals realized their nurses would need more than on-the-job training to serve their patients. Healthcare organizations soon disbanded these internal schools, thus sending students back to local universities and colleges to get an official degree in nursing, instead of just a certificate.
The Benefits of Working Together
As healthcare organizations grapple with the growing nursing shortage, we could see more hospitals collaborating with local universities and colleges in the years to come. Healthcare organizations can share information with their academic counterparts to get more aspiring nurses in the pipeline, so there will be enough experienced professionals in the area to care for patients down the line.
Hospitals can help local universities shape their curriculum and choose specialties for aspiring nurses based on the latest trends and patient demand. For example, if a hospital needs more ICU nurses, it can work with schools to make sure working in the ICU is a part of the school’s nursing program. Some students may even decide to specialize as an ICU nurse.
Collaborating should be a two-way street. Nursing colleges and universities should share course information and student trends with local hospitals and healthcare organizations to help them prepare for any potential changes in the industry or job market. Some healthcare facilities may adjust their operations to appeal to the next generation of nurses, while specialized firms might decide they’re better off looking for talent elsewhere.
From the hospital’s point of view, sharing information with local universities and colleges is a way of making sure future nurses have the skills they need to care for patients. The next generation of nurses will need to be familiar with telehealth, electronic health records, and the latest regulatory requirements, without losing sight of patient care.
Existing nurses know more about their profession than anyone else, so they can share valuable experience and knowledge with students. This process also helps hospitals make themselves more appealing to future nurses. This may include adjusting nurse work schedules, improving employee safety, or adopting the latest technology.
How to Get Started
If your healthcare organization is having trouble recruiting experienced nurses, look for local colleges and universities that share your passion for healthcare. The institution should have a strong standing in the healthcare and academic community. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your nurses where they went to school to get a better idea of where the talent is coming from.
Reach out to local schools and brainstorm ways to collaborate. As a nurse manager or administrator, you may want to meet with deans and academic administrators in person to learn more about their schools. Start slowly until both organizations feel more comfortable collaborating. You can have one of your best nurses come in for a guest lecture or exchange tips on curriculum and training.
If you haven’t done so already, create an apprenticeship or internship program for aspiring nurses to give local students some real-world experience. Encourage them to stay on after they’ve completed their training if you feel they’d be a good fit for your hospital.
Local universities want their students to get hired, and you need qualified nurses. This should be a match made in Heaven if both parties are willing to cooperate. Use these ideas to jumpstart your recruiting efforts.