How To Make Your Nursing Referral Program More Competitive

We’re in the midst of a healthcare crisis. The U.S. has had a nursing deficit for decades. But a convergence of forces — aging Baby Boomers, retiring nurses, rising chronic disease and only so many nursing schools — has put the industry on high alert. Now, it’s up to candidate engagement and referral programs to keep healthcare employers in the game.

Demand for RNs will soar 26% over the next year alone. By 2030, states like California and Texas will be up to 45,000 nurses short of the care they’ll need. In fact, all healthcare roles will be struggling to keep up with demand. Enter travel nursing.

Think of travel nursing as the original gig economy. Today, the niche is framed as the ultimate option for healthcare professionals who crave flexibility, adventure and cash bonuses. When it took off 50 years ago, travel nursing was used to meet the seasonal demands driven by a generation of snow-birds (i.e., retirees who flocked South for the winter).

It’s really catching on with millennials and applies to nurses, allied professions and other healthcare workers.

Travel healthcare helps connect workers with jobs around the country. But the greater struggle for hospital systems, healthcare staffing and other providers is finding those workers in the first place.

Friendship is the best medicine

Today’s candidate market already puts job-seekers squarely in the driver’s seat. Healthcare employers know they need to sweeten the deal to land talent they need, experimenting with incentives, like signing bonuses, housing stipends and student-loan forgiveness, to stand out.

Yet, one of the most effective bonuses employers can offer is friendship (a.k.a. refer a friend).

Referral programs have become the bread-and-butter for getting qualified nurse resumes in the door for travel nursing, healthcare systems and staffing agencies.

Research shows that helping a friend find a job is motivation enough for ⅓ of people to refer a friend or colleague. Only 11% are in it for monetary bonuses. Welcoming a friend to a company or job can also lead to better performing teams, stronger friendships — and more referrals.

Plus, nurse friendships are good for your health.

All’s fair in referrals and talent war

Competition is fierce among referral programs themselves. A nurse can earn up to $1,000 for each successful referral placed. But not all programs require that the referral source is a current employee or consultant of the company.

That means I can work for Hospital A and refer all of my qualified nurse friends to Staffing Agency B. Especially if that agency gives me better bonuses for those referrals.

Rest assured: dollar amount isn’t the only way to compete. Experience matters here, too. An unparalleled candidate experience not only sets your organization apart, but can make it inevitable for workers to refer you — particularly if you ask.

With these powers combined…

Your organization won’t be able to manifest more nurses and confront the deficit by yourself. But you can optimize your engagement strategy and communications to attract and retain healthcare talent.

We’ve outlined three key ways candidate engagement and referral management can help you create the experiences, relationships and efficiencies you need to be successful in healthcare.

3 Keys For Optimizing Your Nursing Referral Program

1. Full-cycle engagement. And then some.

How are you keeping in touch with your nursing talent? When it comes to travel nursing, in particular, it’s essential to maintain regular contact across hiring, screening and placement, and throughout placement duration itself.

Regular contact keeps your nurses engaged and assured they have an advocate for whatever comes up. Working consistent (read: not annoying or overbearing) referral requests into these touchpoints can increase your qualified candidates and awareness of the referral program itself.

Continual engagement also keeps you in the loop on nurses’ next steps and gets you in the door, first, for redeployment possibilities. Retention and redeployment (i.e., keeping the talent you find) will be the hallmarks of healthcare employers in it to win.

2. Make it easy. Make everything easy.

It’s no surprise candidate engagement is the most powerful way to build your referral potential. Creating an experience your nurses can’t help but talk about is the easiest way to build a regular flow of qualified candidates into your healthcare talent pool.

First things, first: make it easy for your nurses to share their experiences. Invite them to provide testimonials on review sites or use branded hashtags to share photos from their day-to-days on social media. Empower them to show, not simply tell, others why your company is the place to work as a nurse or healthcare professional.

Next: make it easy to refer their friends. Create a clear, concise policy that states what qualified candidates are, exactly how to refer them and what to expect next. Using a referral management app, make it easy as a swipe or a tap to share jobs on social or refer a friend directly for a post.

Don’t forget: keep all parties in the loop. Make it easy for your referral sources to follow progress on how a friend’s application is going and when they’ll see that bonus money.

3. Automate. Optimize. Update. Repeat.

As we noted, regular contact across the nursing candidate experience — even into placement, referral requests and redeployment — is essential. But who even has time for that? With automation and smart workflows, you do.

Use automation to offload low-level, regular recruiting tasks, like regular engagement touchpoints, and free your time for responding to your nurses’ needs and connecting the dots for those redeployment opportunities.

You should also automate updates to your referral sources on application progress, incentive payouts and when it’s time (note: it’s always time!) to refer their next friend to your organization. Keep tabs, using referral management software, on whom your best sources are, acknowledge them and gradually grow them into brand advocates.

With these keys in your pocket: keep learning. Glean insights, trends and feedback from your engagement and referral activities. A/B test your communications and experiment with referral campaigns.

Get to know what works and just keep getting better at engaging your network. It’s the strongest way to confront the nursing talent deficit and sustain your success in the face of a healthcare crisis.

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