Recruitment Programs that Attract RNs

  1. Recruitment Programs that Attract Nurses
    by Genie Abrams
    New York State Nurses Association
    March 2003

    Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla is a major trauma center less than a half hour from Manhattan. Ellis Hospital in Schenectady is a small, upstate hospital. But they have something in common: strong NYSNA bargaining units that make safe staffing a top priority. And both, in part because they have such concerned staff nurses, have implemented new programs that have helped make their recruiting more effective.

    "Master Preceptors" Attract New Nurses at Westchester Med
    At Westchester Med, they're making recruitment easier by making conditions more attractive. One example is the innovative "master preceptor program," designed to get new nurses to work in the area that's hardest to staff: intensive care.

    Michelle DeBeauvernet, a bargaining unit member, was asked to be a "master preceptor" for nine new nursing-school grads. They were hired to work in the ICUs in the fall of 2002. Usually, new nurses are precepted for four weeks, at most. But the lucky nine at Westchester Med spent five full weeks of "class time" being oriented to the practices and procedures used in the eight ICUs at Westchester Med. And after the five weeks, they spent another full week in each of four different units: surgical and post-op ICU; cardiac ICU; medical ICU; and respiratory care ICU. Then they got to choose the unit in which they would work.

    Finally, they spent another eight weeks in an orientation program in the unit they had chosen. And they chose diversely: each ICU was chosen by at least one of the new nurses.

    An "Awesome" Program
    "This really gave them a chance to take what they had just learned in class, and see it being put into practice at the bedside," said DeBeauvernet. "This is unique, as far as I know. Most hospitals don't introduce you to so many units when you are first hired. You have to take what you're assigned to."

    The program also helps with retention.

    "This program has been awesome in helping us improve RN retention," said Eileen Letzeiser, RN, vice-chair of NYSNA's Delegate Assembly and nurse recruiter/nurse advocate at Westchester Med. "We publicize it at career fairs and at all the area colleges, both for associate-degree and bachelor's-degree grads, and it's a big draw for all of them. They love knowing that they will be thoroughly trained, oriented, and mentored in their new positions." Even better, Letzeiser says, is the fact that the preceptees are staying at Westchester Med.
    DeBeauvernet agrees. "Nurses are being hired, and nurses are staying. And the nursing shortage isn't as bad as it used to be, at our hospital," she said.

    The "Dash for Cash": A Success in Schenectady
    At Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, nurses are "Dashing for Cash." The facility's "veteran" nurses are reaping monetary rewards for successfully recommending friends and colleagues to work there. And the hospital is seeing a lessening of its staffing crisis as a result.

    The "Dash for Cash" program was established in an agreement signed by NYSNA and the hospital in September 2002. Under its terms, existing RNs are encouraged to recommend other RNs to Ellis. Each newly hired nurse who stays at the facility for at least a year collects a $2000 bonus, while the RN who "recruited" that nurse gets $1000. That reward goes up to $2500 for successful referrals to one of the facility's "hot spots," where the shortage is worst. "Hot spots" include the ICU, the neurology department, critical care, and the adolescent psych unit.

    Retention, Up; Vacancies, Down
    "Those figures are significantly higher than previous bonus amounts," said NYSNA nursing representative Vicky Longo. "The hospital had been offering bonuses and incentives for referrals since 2000, but the new 'Dash for Cash' Program shows a new commitment to recruiting, and that commitment is paying off." The monetary reward for successful referrals under the old program was $750.

    Dianne Shugrue, executive vice president for operations at Ellis Hospital, agrees that the "Dash for Cash" has been a great success.

    "From September to December, we got 26 new RNs," she said. "In the same three-month period the year before, we recruited only 11. That's a tremendous increase! Plus, our RN vacancy rate before the program was 40%. Since the program began, it's been just 18%. Best of all, our RN turnover rate for 2002 ended up at just 7%, while the national average is about 18%. We've been absolutely delighted with this program."

    Longo said, "What we liked best was how 'Dash for Cash' rewards longtime RNs. We collaborated with Ellis to ensure that the program succeeded, by publicizing it during my onsite visits to the units and discussing its benefits with our members, who were very enthusiastic about it.

    "After all, when new nurses arrive at Ellis, it's the 'veterans' who get the benefit of better staffing and less stress. This is a perfect example of how better recruitment, combined with an active and dedicated bargaining unit, results in better retention of a hospital's best nurses."

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