October 12, 2017

Recruitment push helps strengthen nursing workforce

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is succeeding in its efforts to recruit the nation’s best nurses to Middle Tennessee’s only Magnet-designated hospital.

VUMC Nursing’s recruitment campaign included events such as a special recruitment brunch at Wildhorse Saloon and booths at Nashville Predators and Nashville Sounds games. (photo by Terry Wyatt)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is succeeding in its efforts to recruit the nation’s best nurses to Middle Tennessee’s only Magnet-designated hospital.

From the beginning of a major nurse recruitment campaign in March through the end of September, VUMC had hired 400 experienced registered nurses. The nurses have an average of 7.5 years of experience.

“I am very pleased in how many talented and dedicated nurses have chosen to join our organization during this important campaign,” said Marilyn Dubree, MSN, R.N., Executive Chief Nursing Officer. “My thanks to all the partners who made this possible. Our work in recruiting the best nurses in the country is never truly done, but I am so pleased with our position.”

VUMC’s successful recruiting drive came at the same time it received its third Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Magnet is the most prestigious honor an organization can receive for the provision of nursing care and interprofessional collaboration, and only about 6 percent of hospitals have the distinction.

“Nurses are the backbone of any hospital or health system and ours are the very best. I want to congratulate Marilyn and our nursing leaders, and the nurse recruitment team in Human Resources, on the impressive outcome of this campaign,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC. “These results were possible through innovative recruitment methods, but also because Marilyn and our nursing leaders work hard to sustain an inclusive culture where our nurses are able to thrive.”

The recruitment campaign, a partnership of Vanderbilt Nursing and VUMC Human Resources, kicked off with a 100-day push that combined traditional and innovative methods to reach potential recruits. During that time, VUMC held 26 career events for nurses, including a recruitment brunch at the Wildhorse Saloon and recruitment booths at Nashville Predators and Nashville Sounds games.

Recruiters focused targeted digital and social media campaigns on experienced nurses using location-specific social media technology, texting and digital radio ads. Five digital billboards around Nashville encouraged people to “Discover Your Passion” by visiting

“We did things that we’ve never done,” Dubree said. “Our goal was not only to hire the very best nurses. We also wanted to understand not only which efforts worked, but which didn’t work.”

VUMC has also changed its hiring infrastructure to onboard nurses more quickly and developed a Nurse Talent Network of prospects. Recruiters can stay in touch with nurses who aren’t immediately offered positions and consider them for future opportunities.

“Our staff — especially our nurses — are the lifeblood of our organization. As a result, it is critical that we attract and retain the best nurses so we provide the best experience and care for our patients and their families,” said Traci Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer. “This was an opportunity to test some new and innovative methods to add to our recruitment toolbox.”

Candidates can now text NURSE to 26232 and connect immediately with a VUMC recruiter, who typically will reply within a few hours. Personal calls, direct mail cards and emails are other communications strategies.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to recruiting nurses, so we are always looking for new and innovative tactics to add to our outreach efforts,” said Megan Groover, director of Talent Operations for Human Resources. “The recent nurse recruitment campaign helped us connect with nurses in the region and allowed us to be creative in our approach.”

Dubree said three major factors are driving the need for nurse recruitment: VUMC’s growth, turnover and the switch to Epic clinical systems in November. The enhanced level of staffing is important for better patient and family care.

“Nurse staffing for a medical center and a health system is really critical,” she said. “It’s essential to the ability to provide excellent patient care to our patients and our families. It’s critical for having consistent teams that allow us to provide that care in a safe way.”

Dubree said it is important to not only recruit the best, but to continue to make VUMC an employer of choice. Leaders are constantly evaluating the results of VUMC’s culture survey and looking at benefits, employee recognition and other factors to ensure the Medical Center is following best practices.