2 states, 2 health system approaches to recruiting nurses


As hospitals and health systems compete for nursing talent, many organizations have turned to compensation as well as non-compensation benefits. Whether this growing labor expenditure is sustainable appears to be multi-dimensional and depends on an organization’s perspective. But in the most populous state in the United States – and one of the least populous – one thing is clear: recruiting and retaining nurses requires approaches that must take into account other factors such as licensing, housing and the general environment.

To dig deeper into how organizations in Vermont and California are managing the recruitment and retention of nurses, Becker’s interviewed human resources managers at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and Scripps Health in San Diego.


Vermont is the second smallest state in the nation according to the July 2020 U.S. Census Datawith a population of 623,347.

At the same time, the state is expected to see a reduction in nurse licensing because Vermont has begun participating in the compact nurse license in February, which means nurses won’t need a Vermont-specific license if they’re from one of the other compact states, said S. Lauren Hibbert, director of the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation. Data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s electronic information system, Nursys, showed that Vermont had 20,882 active registered nurse licenses as of April 4.

All of this affects the recruitment and retention of nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center, according to Mary Broadworth, the hospital’s vice president of human resources.

She said the University of Vermont Health Network, the university health system that includes the hospital, is also one of the largest employers in the state, which means many people in the State have worked in the field of health or have a family member who works in the field of health or in the network. She also noted the vaccination rate against COVID-19.

“We’re a highly vaccinated state, so at the start of the pandemic, I think there was migration to Vermont from other states from people moving, and our travel nurse population was willing to come to Vermont because it was a safe haven from a COVID number perspective,” Ms. Broadworth said.

Still, she acknowledged that there are barriers to recruiting and retaining nurses, including a lack of housing options due to out-state migration.

“We have a housing shortage, virtually no inventory,” Ms Broadworth said. “And there aren’t a lot of other industries for career advancement in the state. For example, we have someone advancing [to Vermont] with a partner, the partner is challenged to find employment outside of health care.”

With all of this in mind, the University of Vermont Medical Center has focused on developing and growing the current workforce by collaborating with the state on workforce development programs. work.

Ms Broadworth said the programs include a phlebotomy technology program, a pharmacy technology program, a radiology program, all designed to partner with local technical schools to bring more people into healthcare and on the path to becoming a registered nurse. The hospital also trains state nurses who need experience in a Level 1 trauma center.

“We have a lot of learners all the time,” she said. “We want to continue to grow ours, but we will be challenged from a numbers perspective given the growing health care needs in Vermont and our population of retired nurses.”

To relocate talent to Vermont, the hospital has also allowed highly skilled nurses to return to Vermont from their retirement home in Florida to work at the hospital during the summer during the pandemic.

“We have a seasonality here that is unique to us,” Ms Broadworth said. “We’re working on all of these ways to be flexible with talent. With AI, highly specialized skills are so hard to come by. We’re trying to be more flexible on per diems and other ways to balance what ‘they want to do from a schedule standpoint.

Unionization is also a key factor. Prior to the pandemic, the University of Vermont Medical Center began a planned, organized process with the union representing its nurses to do a staffing collaboration.

Ms Broadworth said that means the hospital and the union are going specialty by specialty to see what appropriate staffing would be.

“We have an alignment on what it should look like, but the challenge is hiring for that deal,” she said. “We are using travelers to fill this gap, but we are committed to filling positions with full-time staff.”

As for compensation, the University of Vermont Medical Center agreed to a union contract extension due to the pandemic. After the extension, the hospital offered pay rises ahead of scheduled negotiations over the next contract, meaning the nurses saw pay increases from February this year that would not normally have happened before. October.

And in terms of housing, the University of Vermont Health Network announced in March that it is investing $2.8 million to help fund housing in South Burlington that can be used for its workers. UVM Health Network officials said Becker’s on March 10, the health system will take a 10-year head lease on 61 new one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments being built, then make those units available to its workers, possibly with an employee subsidy eligible.


Compared to Vermont, California, the largest state by population, has 470,687 active registered nurse licenses, according to Nursys.

Amid these and other factors, Scripps Health is focused on competitive salaries, among other elements.

“They need to be competitive in the field you’re recruiting from,” said Eric Cole, senior vice president of health system human resources. “Obviously in California our salaries are higher than in other parts of the country, so we can attract nurses from other places, but we are competitive in Southern California and the San Diego area. .”

At the same time, he said that Scripps isn’t necessarily the highest in the market when it comes to login bonuses. These are determined based on where the most critical shortages in the healthcare system are located.

Another benefit Scripps is focusing on is allowing people who want to float in a site or the healthcare system to do so, as well as opportunities for seasonal workers.

“We think that’s important because once we can lock down a nurse who wants to work in Southern California/San Diego, and Scripps in particular, wherever you are in terms of your professional growth, we want to make sure we have an opportunity there,” Mr. Cole said.

He said Scripps is focused on retention by including nurses in decision-making processes in terms of redeveloping the way patient care is delivered.

The health system also offers tuition reimbursement, scholarships and other measures to help people continue their education, as well as opportunities for professional development.

“Whether you come as a medical/surgical nurse or a new grad, we have cohorts to upskill you in emergency departments, critical care, maternal and child health, the operating room, different areas,” Cole said. “The cost of living is so expensive and it’s hard to recruit in San Diego, so we want to take those who are already in San Diego and develop them within the organization.”

Additionally, with a limited pool of RNs, he said Scripps has a hiring process that “allows us to communicate our opportunity quickly. [and] Hook that candidate with video-on-demand apps. The candidate controls the interview process within 72 hours. It’s important that we reach out to someone who has already expressed an interest and bring them to Scripps as quickly as possible.”

Like the University of Vermont Medical Center, Scripps tapped into the traveler market during the pandemic to fill staffing gaps. However, Mr. Cole said the health system is first trying to use its internal pool of nurses to fill in the gaps.

Overall, “we use where we are. We use the reputation of the organization. We use those who are already working here and the strong team you join when you join the organization,” he said. “It really showcases our strengths and makes sure the nurse understands the organization they are joining and its reputation. We think reputation is important. And opportunities for development. People want to keep growing .”


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