This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Hiring skilled nurses has become increasingly difficult. Whether you run a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility, you need to hire the best nurses who can provide the highest level of care to your patients. Bridging the gap between nurse supply and demand can be daunting, but if you consider best practices along each step of the hiring process (writing a job description, posting a job ad, reviewing and interviewing applicants, running a background check, and making an offer), you can ensure your small business makes the right hire.
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1. Determine the Type of Nurse You Need & Write the Job Description
To figure out the type of nurse you need to recruit, start by listing the core duties of the job. Be detailed about the work you need completed. This will point you in the right direction regarding the type of nurse you need to hire, of which there are many:
- ER Nurse
- Charge Nurse
- Staff Nurse
- Home Health Nurse
- Neonatal Nurse
- Nurse Educator
- Nurse Practitioner
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Licensed Vocational Nurse
- Nurse Case Manager
- School Nurse
- Registered Nurse
There are dozens more types of nurses you could choose from, but it all depends on the work you need to have done. Some skills you should look for, no matter what type of nurse you’re hiring:
- Exceptional patient care
- General medical knowledge
- Ability to check and monitor patient’s vital signs
- Understanding of proper medical safety protocols
- Excellent communication skills
- Technology skills
Make sure you’re clear about the type of employee you want to hire. You can hire full time, part time, seasonal, or temporary, among many others. When writing your job description, you’ll also want to include keywords that will help nurse candidates find your job when they’re searching. Include your job title, skills, and certifications, along with using the word “nurse” frequently.
Finally, you’ll need to determine your salary for this position. The amount you can offer will depend on your company budget and on the type of skill you’re requiring from the candidates, where your business is located, and the work you’ll need this person to do. The more senior the nurse position, the more you’ll have to pay. Average nursing salaries can range a great deal, from as low as $30,000 to well into the six figures, which is why it’s important to do market research and make sure you’re paying a fair and competitive salary.
Compliance Tip: If your business is hiring a nurse in certain states, you may need to put your target salary range in your public job posting. Check your state laws to see if you need to comply. Verify whether asking about a candidate’s past salary is allowed in your state as well.
2. Post Job Ad & Review Applicants
Your job ad will include your job description, but it also needs to sell your company. Discuss the tools and software you offer to help nurses be better at their jobs. Talk about career advancement opportunities within your organization. Mention work-life balance, time off, mental health counseling benefits, and other self-care initiatives your company offers. Nurses spend their days and nights caring for other people—they need the same in return.
Once you’ve posted your job ad, you can expect to receive applicants on the same day. The more junior your nursing position, the more likely you are to get lots of candidates quickly. This is why it’s key that you understand the must-haves for this position so you can quickly scan resumes and move applicants either to the interview pile or the decline pile. If you don’t want to pursue a candidate, mark their application as declined so they aren’t left in limbo.
3. Conduct Interviews
One of the most crucial steps in your hiring process is the interview. You’ll get to this step by eliminating the unqualified candidates and speaking with the most qualified applicants, scheduling them for an interview. I recommend calling each applicant you want to interview instead of emailing them to schedule an interview. While the latter can be more time-efficient, speaking with a candidate for even a few minutes will give you a good sense of their excitement for the job and their communication skills.
During each interview, ask similar questions of the candidates so you can evaluate them evenly. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many interviews, either—stick with less than a dozen candidates for the interview stage.
Here are some sample questions you may want to ask during your nurse interviews:
- Why did you decide to become a nurse?
- Describe a time you lost a patient and discuss how that affected your ability to do your job long term.
- What is your ideal work environment?
- How do you handle difficult patients?
- How do you handle colleague disagreements?
- How do you address questions from a patient’s family?
- Can you explain situations without using lots of medical terms?
- Describe a situation where a patient or family was unhappy with the care you provided.
- What do you do when you don’t know the answer?
Asking each of these questions gives you a good idea, even in a short interview, of the nurse applicant’s abilities in different situations. From the answers, you can then narrow down your list of top candidates to just two or three.
Check out our step-by-step guide on how to conduct a job interview.
4. Call References & Run a Background Check
After you have narrowed down your list of nurse candidates, call their references. Ask for at least three supervisory references from each candidate at this stage to make sure you speak with at least two. You want to speak with a supervisor so you can learn more about the candidate’s work ethic and skills. Colleagues won’t be able to provide the same level of detailed information about the nurse’s abilities.
To help you make the most of your short conversation with a candidates’ references, here are a few sample questions:
- How long did the applicant work directly under your supervision?
- Would you work with this candidate again?
- What are their biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- What advice would you give to someone managing this person?
Check out our article on reference check questions for more options.
I also recommend asking references who else you could speak with about the candidate. The applicant will only give you information about people they know will speak highly of them. You’re not trying to catch the candidate lying, but you want an unfiltered view. This isn’t necessary, but it’s beneficial to either solidify your decision or raise additional red flags.
Nurse Background Checks
Running a background check is not always necessary for new hires, but it’s recommended for nurses. These are individuals who may be caring for vulnerable people and will need to keep lots of information confidential. Your company could be liable for any bad acts or mistakes made by a nurse you hire, so it’s best to run a background check before hiring them.
Make sure you get the nurse’s written permission before running a background check. The company you use to run the background check will be able to provide you with a form for the applicant to sign.
Compliance Tip: Check your state laws. Some states require that companies run background checks after a job offer has been accepted.
5. Make an Offer
After speaking with all of the candidates, checking references, and reviewing your notes, it’s time to make a decision on which nurse you want to hire. No candidate will check off every box, so don’t be discouraged if your top candidates don’t give you everything you want. Your best approach is to select the applicant who best matches the core duties of the nursing position you need to fill and make an official offer—use our free job offer template to document it.
All in all, trust your gut. You may not have spent a ton of time with every candidate, but you have had at least one lengthy conversation with each of them. If you had a good rapport with a particular candidate, they may be the best cultural fit for your organization. You can teach some extra skills, but you can’t teach culture.
Today’s job market is tough, especially in the nursing industry. Recruiting for nurses is more challenging than it’s ever been, but that doesn’t mean you will be unable to find the right match for your business. By keeping your job ad focused on the needs of the job candidate, their skills, and what your company offers, you can attract high-quality nurse candidates to your open position.