Data is being incorporated for medical advancements to improve patient outcomes, and the same techniques can help recruit and retain healthcare professionals. This is especially true about one type of healthcare professional we could not live without – nurses.

Nurses form the bedrock of the healthcare system in the U.S. and are regularly ranked among the most trusted professions. Many of the most basic and humane healthcare services wouldn’t be provided without them. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities are now struggling to attract and retain enough nurses to meet the needs of their communities. New data-driven recruitment strategies may help.

Addressing a Growing Nursing Shortage

It is hard not to be shell-shocked by the stark statistics associated with the gap between the number of nurses needed in the U.S. and the number that are currently projected to be available and in the workforce in the coming decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of registered nurses will increase by over 6% in the next decade , adding nearly 200,000 positions. However, many nurses are expected to leave the workforce during that same period due to retirements or career path changes.

This means that enough new nurses may be entering the workforce to sustain current levels, but there will need to be more to account for the increase in the need for nurses. The shortage in available nurses is anticipated to impact nearly every state in the nation but is particularly acute in rural Western states. Programs seek to lessen the impact of the projected shortages in rural areas, such as those that place nurses in rural areas in exchange for student loan repayment assistance.

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The COVID-19 pandemic was an even more powerful blow to a field struggling to retain quality employees. The field of nursing saw an estimated 3% decline in the number of people in the workforce between 2020 and 2022. The pandemic and associated stresses were particularly difficult for nurses and those in the medical field. Many cited burnout, a lack of support, challenges with patients, and public perception of the pandemic as reasons for leaving nursing altogether.

Hospital administration officials and other healthcare leaders recognize the problem and are actively searching for effective methods of educating, recruiting, and retaining more nurses. Some of these strategies are starting to pay off already, while others are just getting off the ground, including using data to help bridge the gap.

Data-Driven Nurse Recruitment

Many hospitals are putting renewed energy into fostering relationships with nursing schools. Likewise, the schools are working hard to utilize state-approved funding to develop the infrastructure to accept and train more aspiring nurses. For example, Arizona recently passed a bill allocating over $15 million to develop a pilot program focused on nurse education. To do this, they attend career fairs or technical events, collect information on students interested in the program, and follow up. Schools collect valuable and useful information at events, such as demographics, contact information, social media platforms, and event feedback.

Incorporating data analytics into the recruitment process can significantly increase hiring efficiency and improve the quality of the candidates brought on. For instance, it can be easier to identify nurses most interested in working in certain cities or departments and strategically hire them for positions they are more likely to be invested in.

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Data analytics can also help identify issues within the hiring process itself. Making a few tweaks to the interview questions may make a big difference. Likewise, data can point out problems with diversity hiring or subconscious biases that a panel might pick up. Data can look deeper under the surface to ensure diversity goals are met at all levels.

Using Data to Create a Valued Culture

Data can also be a powerful tool for building a positive culture that makes employees want to stay at their workplace rather than move on to a different position. For instance, data can be used to build a more transparent workplace where employees feel they have a real connection and line of communication with management. Issues can be more easily tracked and evaluated over time – company leaders can make policy changes and collect data to assess how they are helping.

One example could be a hospital that is getting several reports that its nurses are burnt out and struggling with some of the trauma they see every day. It is a stressful job, and many locations are likely already dealing with similar issues. Administrative staff could implement several solutions, such as rotating nurses to different floors to give them a break or bringing in a professional mental health expert to help nurses process. Data collected before and after these changes are made can help determine the actual impacts of policies and how they improve conditions.

Data can play a significant role in helping healthcare facilities attract and retain nurses. The tools can be used to improve the hiring process and assess the effectiveness of policy changes to improve workplace conditions. Incorporating data could play an essential role in helping alleviate the growing nursing shortage nationwide.

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Amanda Winstead
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