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Advice on Recruiting, From CNOs, To CNOs

Analysis  |  By G Hatfield  
   February 12, 2024

Hear about best practices for recruiting from these nurse leaders. 

The nursing shortage is placing a heavy burden on health systems and making acquiring new talent extremely tedious.

However, the market does continue to grow.

According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in January 2024, jobs in healthcare rose by 70,000, with 17,000 of those positions being in nursing and residential care facilities.

CNOs should take advantage of this growth and take a look at their recruiting processes.

There are many strategies to help with recruiting, with varying degrees of success. CNOs need to focus on those solutions with proven positive outcomes to build their workforces.

Here are some best practices for recruitment, by CNOs, for CNOs.

Provide unique experiences

CNOs should be as creative as possible when it comes to recruiting, according to Cassie Lewis, Chief Nursing Officer for the Bon Secours health system’s Richmond market.

“No longer are the days where you can expect just to post a job and have all these people apply,” she said.

Lewis said Bon Secours is creating programs to attract candidates that make the health system stand out in a crowded market. One of those programs involves a 10- to 12-week accelerated pathway in which new graduate nurses can rotate between different units to find out which would be a good fit.

Having the new nurses feel comfortable in their units also helps retain them, said Lewis.  

“A nurse residency program is not unique to Bon Secours,” she said, “but how do we make it unique to where we can advertise it as doing something a little bit differently for new graduate nurses?”

Energize the community

Messaging is important when it comes to recruiting new nurses.

The pandemic had a two-fold impact on the public’s outlook on nursing, according to Lisa Dolan, Chief Nursing Officer at Ardent Health Services. People saw and understood the value of nursing, while simultaneously not wanting to become a part of the industry.

To combat this, CNOs should create efforts showing that nursing and other jobs in healthcare are a viable option with promising career paths.

“Trying to help reenergize the public about healthcare careers and how fulfilling they can be is a key piece,” Dolan says, “and a key role for CNOs going forward in their communities.”

Recruit inclusively

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is key to recruiting as well.

D’Andre Carpenter, Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at Allina Health, believes CNOs must recruit with DEI principles in mind.

“[We must tap] into those communities of team members and others that really want to break into the profession of healthcare,” he said, “but they have barriers that often prohibit them from doing that.”

Lewis believes it is crucial that the workforce represents the community it serves.  

“It’s not just about tapping into one school and having one unique workforce that all looks the same, acts the same, and does the same thing,” he said. “We [need to] create a workforce that mirrors our communities that our patients can trust.”

Create the right environment

Culture can be a major deciding factor for nurses choosing a health system, and creating a supportive, safe, and healthy environment for nurses is critical.

Lewis emphasized the importance of creating a culture where people want to come to work, and where leadership is visible to them, so the nurses know the “why” behind policies.

“Compensation doesn’t feel so important when you have a place that you truly enjoy [working at],” Lewis said, “and [when you] feel supported by your leaders.”

Carpenter said leaders must create an enticing environment with a healthy workforce balance and growth opportunities. Nurses want to know where they will be in the next five to 10 years, and CNOs should provide those pathways.

“[Engage] with team members in ways that are meaningful to [the nurses],” Carpenter said. “[Have] conversations about where they want to take their career, even for those that are just starting.”

Academic partnerships

Another key factor for recruitment is partnering with academic institutions. According to Dolan, the partnerships should be symbiotic, creating new pipelines for nurses into the industry while supporting the institutions themselves.

“If we can…help augment their staffing and clinical instructors, and allow them to take additional students,” Dolan said, “[that] would all be very helpful as well.”

For more information on academic partnerships and recruiting, read here.

G Hatfield is the nursing editor for HealthLeaders.


CNOs should take advantage of the job creation in the healthcare industry, despite the nursing shortage.

Health systems need to provide unique programs that entice nurses to want to work for them.

Leaders must keep diversity, equity, and inclusion principles in mind to create a workforce that reflects the community.

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