Please, please accept a high-paying job with us. In fact, just swing by for an interview and we'll give you a chance to win cash and prizes.
Sounds too good to be true, especially in an economy riddled with job cuts in nearly every industry. But applicants for nursing jobs are still so scarce that recruiters have been forced to get increasingly inventive.
One Michigan company literally rolled out a red carpet at a recent hiring event. Residential Home Health, which provides in-home nursing for seniors on Medicare, lavished registered nurses and other health care workers with free champagne and a trivia contest hosted by game-show veteran Chuck Woolery. Prizes included a one-year lease for a 2009 SUV, hotel stays and dinners.
"We're committed to finding ways to creatively engage with passive job seekers," said David Curtis, president of the Madison Heights-based company.
Recruiters like Curtis may have little choice. The long-standing U.S. nurse shortage has led to chronic understaffing that can threaten patient care and nurses' job satisfaction, and the problem is expected to worsen.
The shortage has been operating since World War II on an eight- to 10-year cycle, industry experts say. Each time the number of nurses reaches a critical low, the government adds funding and hospitals upgrade working conditions. But as the deficit eases, those retention efforts fade and eventually the old conditions return, often driving nurses into other professions.
"We recently had a hiring event where, for experienced nurses to interviewjust to interviewwe gave them $50 gas cards," said Tom Zinda, director of recruitment for Wheaton (Ill.) Franciscan Healthcare, a 12-hospital system with facilities in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. "We really try to get as creative as we can. It's a tough position to fill."
Recruiters across the country have tried similar techniques, offering chair massages, lavish catering and contests for flat-screen TVs, GPS devices and shopping sprees worth as much as $1,000.
Cheryl Peterson, the director of nursing practice and policy for the American Nurses Association in Silver Spring, Md., said employers must raise salaries and improve working conditions.
"The wages haven't kept up with the level of responsibility and accountability nurses have," said Peterson, whose organization represents nurses' interests. Chronic understaffing means nurses are overworked, she said, and as burned-out nurses leave the situation spirals for the colleagues they leave behind.
Some health organizations go out of their way to recruit as many nurses as possible even when they're overstaffed.
Residential Home Health, the home-nursing company in Michigan, is always looking to hire, Curtis said. Even with 375 clinical professionals on staff, his recruiters are eager to sign up as many as 50 more nurses and therapists, hence the Chuck Woolery event.
Zinda said creative recruiting helps to introduce nurses to his system. Besides offering interviewees $50 gas cards, he has provided $100 gift cards to the local mall, and created a Facebook page to target younger nurses.
Attracting good candidates is about offering good working conditions, he said, but creative recruiting goes a long way in generating a buzz.
"Bottom line, you need to get people excited about what you're offering," he said. "If you don't, they can easily go elsewhere."
By the Associated Press