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New—and Sometimes Nontraditional—Ways to Attract and Keep Nurses

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   August 16, 2023

Nurse hiring and retention now entails upskilling, collaboration, and revolutionary solutions.

As hospitals and health systems continue to seek solutions to workforce staffing—particularly nursing—many are veering away from traditional methods and embracing new ways of attracting and retaining employees.

Though COVID-19 took an extreme toll on the healthcare workforce, nurse and other clinical leaders are creating and piloting efforts to maintain staff to provide quality care for patients, Robyn Begley, CEO of the American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL) and chief nursing officer and senior vice president of workforce of the American Hospital Association (AHA), told HealthLeaders.

“Especially the last six months, hospitals, health systems, and nursing leaders that I interact with every day, are working on solutions for the now, near, and far,” she says. “What I mean is, ‘now’ are actions and activities that are going to have impact right away. With the ‘near’ and ‘far,’ the actions will start right now but might not have impact for a longer time.”

Many of those actions involved upskilling, collaboration, and nontraditional support, as these examples provided by Begley and AONL show.


  • Geisinger, a Pennsylvania healthcare system, is filling critical nursing roles through its Nursing Scholars Program, which awards $40,000 in financial support to each employee pursuing a nursing career, providing that nurse commits to working five years as a Geisinger inpatient nurse. The program is open to any employee who is not already an RN,  physician, or advance practice provider, and begins on day one of their employment. 
  • UCHealth in Colorado plans to attract and keep employees through its $50 million investment in its Ascend leadership program, in which it will pay for several degrees, including bachelor and master’s programs in both clinical and behavioral health. The investment also fully funds several certifications, along with high school completion, college prep courses, and language classes for current and prospective employees.


  • Allegheny Health Network, based in Pittsburgh, launched Work Your Way, a mobile internal staffing model that provides flexibility for nurses to choose how and when they want to work. Mobile nurses work rotational, six-week shifts in emergency medicine, telemetry, critical care, and perioperative care at eight of AHN’s 14 hospitals. Those traveling more than 50 miles to work receive premium pay and mileage reimbursement; those traveling more than 75 miles also receive lodging reimbursement. Options to work weekends and night shifts are included.
  • A partnership between Mary Washington Healthcare in Virginia and Germanna Community College onboards two cohorts of as many as 60 nursing students each year through its Earn While You Learn program, in which those students work 12-20 hours a week using a clinical rotation model. The program includes an additional nursing school as well as mentor models for nursing assistants.

Nontraditional support

  • Bozeman Health in Montana, the city of Bozeman’s largest employer, has invested in 100 units in a future workforce housing complex to provide employees with affordable rentals. The first phase is reportedly expected to be completed by the end of 2023. 
  • Northwell Health offers eligible employees as much as $5,000 in financial assistance to purchase a home on Long Island. 
  • The Johns Hopkins Live Near Your Work program offers grants of up to $17,000 toward a down payment and closing costs associated with buying a house in designated city neighborhoods after completing eligibility requirements. 

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Nurse leaders are seeking both short-term and long-term solutions to hiring and retention.

Health systems are offering financial support to entice potential nurses to get the required education and hire on with them.

Some organizations are subsidizing housing for their employees.

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