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Cedars-Sinai's strategies for hiring and retaining nurses in today's competitive market — 4 insights

Nurses are in high demand and short supply across the US. However, some hospitals like Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles are able to successfully hire and retain nurses.

During a February webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Incredible Health, Iman Abuzeid, MD, CEO and co-founder of Incredible Health, spoke with David Marshall, DNP, RN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer of Cedars-Sinai, about their nurse hiring and retention strategies.

Four key insights were:

  1. Demand for healthcare is rising while the number of healthcare professionals is decreasing. "Our demand for healthcare as a country keeps going up," Dr. Abuzeid said. "An aging population puts more strain on the healthcare system, and things like COVID don't help." One in 8 Americans works in healthcare. Still, the industry expects a national shortage of 1 million nurses by 2023 with an average annual acute care nurse turnover rate of 19 percent per year, according to research cited by the presenters.

  2. Speed is of the essence when it comes to new hires. "We see time and time again that the teams with the fastest internal hiring processes end up hiring the most," Dr. Abuzeid said. "There's an intense amount of competition." Dr. Marshall agreed. "If we don't act on a recruit at first contact, we're not going to get that recruit. Nurses expect Amazon Prime-type delivery," he said.

  3. Nurse retention programs must focus on professional development, a positive work environment, and flexible schedules in addition to competitive compensation. Per data from Incredible Health, the top reasons nurses leave their jobs are to advance their career (51 percent), have a more flexible schedule or greater balance (42 percent), reduce commute time or relocate (26 percent) and enjoy better compensation (21 percent).

    Cedars-Sinai has taken steps to improve retention by focusing on these key reasons nurses leave. Efforts include:

    • Investing in career development. Cedars-Sinai has invested heavily in its Nurse Residency Program for new graduates as well as its Rising Star Program, both of which are designed to help future charge nurses obtain advanced leadership skills. "We've also invested heavily in tuition assistance and critical pipeline loans to allow nurses to advance their education," Dr. Marshall said. "In addition, we have specialty training programs in critical care, emergency labor and delivery, and perioperative services. We think nurses need robust professional development pathways for their careers." 
    • Creating a positive workplace. Cedars-Sinai focuses on kindness, offers spiritual and counseling services, and is committed to supporting their staff throughout the pandemic, which has meant zero layoffs. Cedars-Sinai also has a happy delivery robot to reduce wait times, and automation to increase in-person nursing time with patients.
    • Providing schedule flexibility. "We need to explore how to incorporate four-, six- and eight-hour shifts into what has traditionally been a 12-hour-shift workplace," Dr. Marshall said. "We're also looking at allowing nurses to work in our call center for three months as a break from bedside care."
    • Offering good wages. To ensure that wages remain competitive, Cedars-Sinai conducts frequent market surveys, provides additional shift incentives, offers sign-on bonuses, and provides annual thank-you bonuses.

  4. Incredible Health played a key role in Cedars-Sinai's nurse hiring and retention programs. As a career marketplace for healthcare workers, Incredible Health uses custom matching technology to help organizations hire high-quality permanent nurses in fewer than 20 days. "It's a very nurse-centric platform," Dr. Abuzeid said. "Employers are applying to the talent instead of the other way around." About 83 percent of the nurses the Cedars-Sinai team has sourced through Incredible Health accept Cedars-Sinai's offer, and 86 percent of the nurses hired have been in hard-to-fill areas.

Hiring and retaining nurses in today's challenging, competitive environment requires creative approaches. Working with an organization such as Incredible Health can help health systems find the nursing talent they need. Then, by focusing on compensation, flexible scheduling and career development, health systems can improve their ability to retain top nursing talent.