By LEE WHITE
Long-suffering husband of a 2005 new grad RN
During the past two years, my wife and I have researched new grad RN opportunities across these United States. She will be a new grad in May 2005. I'm just the poor simp holding the purse outside the women's restroom door who gets to do part of the research. Las Vegas initially looked very, very good. In fact, a post I wrote for this forum nearly a year ago, The Case for Practicing Nursing in Las Vegas, has drawn dozens of posts and hundreds of hits. Of course, the Vegas lifestyle is not for everyone -- we are not the 2.2 kids and minivan kind of couple -- but the town is growing and offers a bright economic future for folks who care about such things. And it still beats hell out of Kansas by any measure -- pay, benefits, weather and lifestyle included!
As graduation approaches, however, Nevada remains in the running, but it's rapidly losing ground to California. Part of this has to do with the fact that there are many law schools for me to attend in California. Nevada hospitals have also placed themselves at a disadvantage, however, due to substantially-higher pay in parts of California and the apparent reluctance of some Las Vegas facilities to offer critical care internships. There was also an instance in which a brain-dead HCA recruiter (is there any other kind?), rather curtly told Sherri to look elsewhere for a job because her facility wouldn't be hiring new grads!
There is, allegedly, a nursing shortage in parts of this country. It is especially bad in Las Vegas, where the Review-Journal recently featured hospital executives complaining because the government is making it harder to bring nurses in from foreign countries, particularly the Philippines. Nevada even has a web site, http://www.nvnurses.com
, which touts the relative merits of practicing nursing in the Silver State. Nonetheless, there seems to be a kind of disconnect between what health care companies are doing to recruit nurses -- particularly new RN's -- and what top-flight new grad RN's want and need. The problem is certainly not limited to Nevada. So, nurse recruiters and hospital CEO's, take note: I'm about to offer some unsolicited advice on how to recruit new grad RN's.
• DON'T HIDE THE MONEY. Yes, it is true that nurses should be in the profession to care for their patients (although nobody complains when physicians demand the big bucks). But here's the bottom line: A new grad RN can clean up puke (or worse) for $15 an hour in Wichita. Sherri, and any other new grad RN worth his or her salt, can do the math and wouldn't be calling or writing in search of a lateral move. I believe hospitals should put their starting pay right on their web sites. If the amount is negotiable, then say so, but at least give prospective nurses a ballpark figure. Although pay may not make or break the deal with a new grad, a recruiter's reluctance to discuss money -- especially when talking with a prospect several states away -- rightly raises a red flag. There is an HCA facility in southern Texas that Sherri considered. This particular hospital spends thousands of dollars on advertisements and a colorful web site, http://www.nosnowjobs.com
. Sherri nearly had her bags packed, but she e-mailed and repeatedly telephoned the recruiter (they had corresponded before) trying to get at least an idea of the starting wage. She got nothing in return except a "form e-mail" she had received before that didn't answer the question. Perhaps that hospital should change its web site URL to http://www.tallhatnocattle.com!
• ANSWER E-MAIL AND VOICEMAIL. The best recruiter Sherri has dealt with so far is at Sharp in San Diego, https://jobs.sharp.com
. And you know what? That recruiter just might land herself a new RN come summer. Within hours after Sherri filled out a form on the hospital's web site, this recruiter was following up with phone calls and e-mails. Printed materials soon followed. The recruiter periodically checks in with Sherri. When our conversations turn to California, as they often do, Sherri says, "Gee, Sharp has been awfully good to me." Does Sharp have the best pay on the West Coast? Well, no, but it is competitive and so are the benefits. What sets this facility apart is that the folks at the door act like they care. Sherri recently received a nice DVD from a hospital in Wilmington, N.C. We watched the video together one afternoon. Both of us thought the place looked really cool. We knew the pay was not the best in the nation, but we absolutely love being near the ocean. Sherri called the recruiter right after we watched the video. That was the first week of December. Sherri is still waiting for a phone call. Hello! Is this thing on?
• OFFER NEW GRAD INTERNSHIPS. There is considerable debate about whether a new grad should learn a specialty right out of school or spend a year in med/surg. As with nearly any other profession, I believe it depends on the individual. Sherri, at 33, is a little more mature than some graduates. She works med/surg part-time as an LPN at a community hospital where we live. The experience has been most valuable, but her five-year goal is to enter CRNA school, which requires a minimum of one year of critical care experience. She has a 4.0 GPA in nursing and a 3.76 overall GPA. The ADN program she is completing takes only the top 45 out of 300-plus applicants each semester. Once admitted, students face a daunting amount of reading and clinical assignments, NCLEX-style questions on every test and a 100-question comprehensive final exam each semester. Recruiters and administrators need to understand that one size definitely does not fit all. It's too bad that one Vegas hospital -- perfect in every other aspect of its recruiting effort -- doesn't see it that way. The profession should reward those who go the extra mile. Clearly, it does not and that goes right to the heart of why nurses must fight for respect from patients, physicians, hospital administrators and the public. I used to think nurses were stupid, worthless and weak before Sherri went to nursing school. The experience educated me, but C=RN mentality -- both on the part of some nurses and the people who hire them -- does nothing but reinforce similar negative stereotypes.
• DON'T WAIT FOR NEW GRADS TO COME TO YOU. In certain states, there is not much of a nursing shortage. Kansas is one such state. Recruiters need to find out where those states are and directly target experienced RN's and new grads alike with print advertisements, mailings and -- gasp! -- telephone calls. Sherri has received exactly ONE unsolicited mail piece since she was admitted to the nursing program in the fall of 2003. And you're telling me there's a nursing shortage somewhere?!? Recruiters should also build relationships with administrators, faculty members and student leaders at the NLNAC-accredited schools across the nation, especially those in states where the supply of nurses outpaces demand (think Midwest and Mid-South). If you can believe it, some new grads are having trouble finding work in places like Minnesota and, yes, Kansas. Why aren't these big hospitals that claim to be hurting for nurses not working these areas a bit harder? Is it stupidity, laziness or is the Great Nursing Shortage really the Big Lie?
• INTERVIEW BY PHONE OR BUY THEIR TICKET. Few experienced or new grad nurses can afford to lead a jet-set lifestyle. Not only is it cost-prohibitive for them to buy airline tickets and hotel rooms to visit distant hospitals that may or may not hire them, but travel takes time away from their professional, academic and family lives. In addition to maintaining a stellar GPA in school, Sherri works, volunteers for the Red Cross and serves as president of her school's National Student Nurses Association chapter. Hospitals that are serious about addressing the nursing shortage need to become a heck of a lot more understanding about interview expenses. What good does it do to offer a $3,000 relocation package, like one large, Florida hospital does, when the nurse must spend a grand just to travel across the country for an interview? Weed out the losers with a phone interview and a background check. The background check would typically be done by phone even if the prospective employee lived next door to the hospital. Then, if it's necessary to talk face-to-face, pay the nurse's travel expenses. You wouldn't believe how many experienced and new grad nurses are cleaning up puke in Wichita, Kansas, for $15 an hour -- many of them working two and three jobs because they can't get enough hours at one hospital -- simply because nobody bothered to teach them a better way.
Today's health care recruiter needs to understand that he or she is not in nursing or human resources. He or she is in sales! Ever visit an automobile dealership? If you don't see something polyester coming toward you within 10 seconds of your setting foot on that car lot, it is likely that the place is closed. The car salesman knows you walked onto that lot under your own power. You want to buy a car or you wouldn't be there. He may be a plastic-encrusted slime ball, but he promptly greets you and does everything he can to find out what he could do to get you into a new car today.
Consider the hospital that's leading the pack in Sherri's job search -- Sharp in San Diego. When Sherri "walked on the car lot," that recruiter came running, greeted her and acted genuinely interested in seeing what she could do to get Sherri into a new grad nursing position today. What did that cost? Not one, thin dime -- just a little extra effort. Will every recruit sign up? Well, no, but I'll bet a lot of them will. Like many situations in this life, it comes down to attitude. It's why the sun will set in a blazing, red sky to the east of Casablanca before the Minnesota Vikings -- talented as they are -- ever win the Super Bowl. It is also why there will be 10,000 nurses cleaning up puke in Wichita, Kansas, for $17 an hour in 2015 while nurse recruiters from sea to shining sea whine that there just aren't enough Filipino RN's getting visas these days. Yes, I fully expect my words to fall on deaf ears.
Nurse recruiters need to act more like car salesmen. Blame for the fact that many of them do not lies squarely upon the shoulders of hospital CEO's, most of whom are long drinks of tepid water who spend all day boring others to tears in meetings. The sales manager at a car lot does everything he can to motivate his sales force. He sets quotas and rewards his people when they meet them. He offers "spiffs" -- sell a certain model, pop the right balloon and a crisp $100 bill might fall out. Those sales people who don't close the sale don't eat and eventually find another line of work. Imagine how quickly nursing shortages in places like California, Nevada, Texas and Florida could be alleviated if nurse recruiters were compensated and rewarded more like car salesmen than human resources hacks.