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5 Ways to Build a Local Pool of Nursing Talent

Reducing Reliance on Travel Nurses through Community-Focused Recruitment and Marketing

The current state of the healthcare labor market puts hospitals and health systems in a precarious situation. On the one hand, health systems and hospitals want to reduce their reliance on travel nursing labor in favor of permanent hires. While demand and wages for travel nurses have dropped considerably from pandemic levels, open travel nursing jobs remain stubbornly high, and health systems remain vulnerable to fluctuating staffing demands. On the other hand, the reality is that the nursing shortage is here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future), and nurses have the leverage to demand the autonomy, flexibility, and compensation that travel and contingent positions provide. With margins not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for quite some time and nonprofit hospitals reporting "barely breakeven" median margins due partly to an 11.1% increase in labor costs, healthcare executives are looking for workforce strategies that create financial and operational stability in this challenging and unprecedented time.

Hospitals can develop a local healthcare labor pool that nurtures and supports nursing recruitment within their communities to address the costs and challenges associated with travel nursing labor and build a sustainable clinical workforce. In this blog post, we'll discuss five ways your hospital can build a local-first pipeline of nursing talent that reduces dependency on travel nurses without compromising care quality and patient safety.

Create an employer brand and recruitment marketing programs that promote community, culture, and mission.

Individuals who pursue a career in nursing do so for various reasons, but a common motive is the professional and personal fulfillment that comes with serving and helping others. In a recent survey conducted by McKinsey & Co., "...respondents said the most important factors keeping them in their direct-patient-care roles included doing meaningful work, a positive and engaging work environment, and feeling healthy and safe". Considering this data, hospitals should develop an employer brand that appeals to their local nurses' sense of purpose to impact their community positively and recognizes, supports, and nurtures their personal and professional development and well-being.

Employer branding and recruitment marketing programs must begin well before nursing job requisitions are posted, as a recent LinkedIn survey found that "75% of job seekers consider an employer's brand before even applying for a job."

Here are a two tactics hospitals and health systems can deploy to build positive sentiment and awareness for their employer branding:

  • Make your current nurses the heart of your brand: Tell the stories of your full-time nurses and give them a voice. Ask them to share their stories and thoughts that focus on their dedication to the community, the hospital's positive work culture, and their career growth and success. Additionally, ask local patients to share their experiences with your nursing staff and create marketing materials highlighting nurse well-being and value as an institutional pillar.
  • Take Advantage of Omni-Channel Marketing: The best employer branding and nurse recruitment marketing programs leverage several channels to attract potential candidates. Digital platforms such as social media, targeted ads, and search engine marketing effectively attract nurses actively seeking new opportunities as they are highly targeted. However, more traditional marketing channels are still valuable in building positive sentiment and overall awareness, especially in local markets.

Highlight your hospital's employee benefits beyond compensation.

With the intense demand and competition for nurses, offering competitive compensation is essential to winning local nursing talent. However, according to Jobvite's 2021 Healthcare Job Seeker Trends Report, only 47.7% of surveyed healthcare workers reported overall compensation as their top influence in accepting a job offer

To avoid competing solely on price (in which the highest offer will always win), promote the additional benefits you can offer your candidates. Most job descriptions mention benefits such as medical insurance, family leave, paid time off, and retirement programs, so be creative to differentiate your hospital from your local competition. Consider building the following perks and benefits into your job descriptions and employment contracts:

  • Professional Development, Mentorship, Continuing Education, and Training Programs
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs
  • Autonomy, Flexibility, and Work/Life Balance
  • Health and Wellness Programs and Partnerships
  • Hospital-Sponsored Employee Volunteerism Programs

Create or Update and Communicate your Employee Referral Program

Referrals from existing employees are among the most effective ways to attract top nursing talent in your community. Referred candidates are often a good fit for your hospital, as your current nurses are unlikely to refer a candidate they wouldn't vouch for and will have given the candidate a sense of the organization and its culture. Furthermore, because the referred candidate has a connection to your hospital, they can be onboarded and ramped up much more quickly than new hires found through other sourcing methods. 

2023 Employee Referral research conducted by Zippia found the following statistics demonstrating the value of employee referral programs:

  • Using referrals increases retention by 40%.
  • Referred hires stay 70% longer than other employees.
  • Hiring referrals reduces company turnover by up to 20%
  • On Average, hiring costs for employee referrals are ~$1,000 less than other hiring sources.

To build engagement and participation in your referral program, ensure your nursing staff is aware of the program and offer your nurses the right incentives, such as:

  • Financial Compensation: Employees receive a monetary referral bonus.
  • Experiential Rewards: Experiential rewards are a great addition or alternative to financial incentives, especially for community-first talent acquisition. Experiential incentives offer more room for creativity, and your organization can use them to further its brand and presence in the community.

Build partnerships with community organizations and nursing programs at local colleges and universities.

Partnering with local community organizations and nursing programs at colleges and universities is a great way to build a strong, local talent pool of nurses. By engaging in these partnerships, your hospital can create meaningful connections that will help attract talented nurses looking for more than just a job. These partnerships allow you to tap into the expertise of experienced professionals and provide valuable educational opportunities for aspiring nurses. Additionally, by partnering with local institutions, you can gain access to new networks of potential candidates while building goodwill in the community and increasing your hospital's visibility. Through these relationships, your organization can become an integral part of the fabric of its communities and ultimately be better equipped to recruit top talent from those areas.

To get started, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers academic-practice partnership guidelines between nursing schools and healthcare systems.

Leverage Technology to Streamline Workforce Management and Administration

One-third of healthcare staffing leaders need help with overly complex, inefficient processes in their workforce development strategies. To stay competitive and attract top nursing talent in their local market, healthcare organizations must leverage technology to streamline workforce management and administration processes. For example, hospitals can improve their recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes by:

Additionally, these technologies can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of various strategies so that hospitals can optimize their workforce for maximum efficiency. Therefore, implementing a well-thought-out strategy utilizing available technology is essential if healthcare organizations want to increase productivity while maintaining quality standards.


Travel nursing has been necessary in recent years, but it can be costly and presents significant challenges. Building a sustainable nursing workforce through local recruitment and marketing can solve the issues of travel nursing and provide hospitals with a competitive advantage. Building a pool of local nursing talent nurtures and supports nursing recruitment within the hospital’s community, fostering engagement among the nursing staff, and can contribute to better patient outcomes and increased job satisfaction rates. Ultimately, providing staff with the tools needed to succeed builds loyalty, satisfaction, and quality of life, elevating the commitment to patient care.

Jake Behnke
Post by Jake Behnke
May 16, 2023


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