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For graduate nursing programs seeking to engage and attract nurses to their programs, the key to effectiveness is knowing your program, your prospective graduate nurses, and your resources.

Know Your Program

There are as many unique academic needs as there are individual nurses. For successful interaction to begin, you need to know what should be shared regarding your graduate nursing program. Questions that prospective graduate nurses have include the following: 

  • What is the class attendance format?  Are classes, online, in-person, or hybrid?  
  • Is your program affordable?  
  • Are academic and professional resources available? 
  • What types of relationships does your program have with local and regional clinical sites?  
  • What are the clinical practicum requirements for each program and how do they prepare the graduate student to take on a new role?
  • Will a graduate degree increase the graduate nurse’s income significantly enough to warrant the investment?

The first of these is perhaps the most important. Today, there is a rapid shift happening in the norms of what is considered a learning environment. It has expanded far beyond the four walls of the classroom. Although the online format is increasing in popularity, it’s not for everyone.  Many students avoid online classes because they either don’t feel capable of learning outside of the classroom, or they are concerned that the convenience of online learning sacrifices the quality of in-person learning. If your graduate program is online, you should communicate how you compensate for the decreased face-to-face interaction.  If it is in person, you need to emphasize how the quality of education makes up for the lack of flexibility.

Beyond the learning environment, decide what makes your graduate program useful, and invest your resources wisely into it.  

Get to Know Prospective Graduate Nurses

With student loan debt in the United States at $1.5 trillion and growing, it’s no wonder Americans are reconsidering the notion that “more is better” when it comes to education. Today, prudent potential graduate students consider their return on temporal and financial investments for more education before enrolling. This is why approaching established adult professionals is so different from undergraduate programs. Especially for those who are putting some of their income toward paying student debt, they may be hesitant to move further in their academic career without a clear and sure payoff. Promote your nursing education by sharing stories of successful graduate nurses, and promoting any programs in place that assist before, during, and after the transition from school to work, both financially and logistically.

Money and time aren’t the only concerns of potential graduate nurses.  What is it about a graduate degree that could augment a nurse’s sense of purpose in their work? Engage nurses by showing them not only how their income could increase with a graduate degree, but how a greater sense of purpose can improve the quality of their careers.

Know Your Resources: Marketing Specifics

The way to draw interest to any endeavor is to answer questions before anyone has to ask. For nurses considering graduate school, it’s not hard to imagine what the most common concerns might be: work/life balance, financial and time investment, flexibility with their work schedule and personal life, and of course, the practical application of the degree in question. Be a resource for that content; nurses don’t have to be applying to your program to get to your site. This can be done by having a blog on your program’s site with topics potential graduate nurses are interested in. Get nurses to your site through search engine optimization (SEO). Have a web development team that can put this into place.

The sheer volume of social media users is reason enough to utilize it to connect to prospective students. Having a social media presence, in addition to targeted advertising on social media, are keys to connecting to potential graduate nurses. As a requisite of modern nursing, nurses are tech-savvy; they are on these sites. Many social media platforms have become tools for nurses in their own right. YouTube is packed with nursing skill review videos, exam reviews, and vlogging that is specific to nurses’ lifestyle and career hints. LinkedIn is a popular way to create a professional network. Collaborating with popular nursing social media personalities, or “influencer marketing,”  in addition to traditional advertising, can connect you with many potential students.

Word of mouth is the most reliable and least expensive advertisement there is. Foster positive relationships with your active stakeholders; namely, your current students and clinical sites. Having working nurses witness clinical graduate students on-site not only demonstrates the feasibility of clinical placement, but it also allows the prospective student to have a candid conversation that they may not otherwise have. For this reason, make sure your current students have something good to say about your program. Don’t let recruiting new students bypass the importance of taking care of those that you already have.

The degree to which you implement and combine each of these strategies will depend upon your institution’s own budget and logistical limitations. Your formula for success will be unique to your organization and context. Engaging and attracting prospective students to graduate nursing programs take high-quality consideration of logistics and allocation of tasks.

Latest posts by Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR (see all)
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