5 Ways To Incorporate Cultural Competence in Nurse Recruitment

Being culturally competent involves strong communication, understanding, and mutual respect and can make all the difference in attracting and hiring the best talent.

According to a 2020 GlassDoor survey, three out of four employees and candidates consider a diverse workforce an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. And as workforce diversity continues to grow, it’s important to demonstrate cultural competence from start to finish in the recruitment process.

Cultural competence is the ability to understand and appreciate values, beliefs, practices, and attitudes from different backgrounds. This involves being self-aware and recognizing unconscious and conscious biases. Unconscious biases are assumptions or stereotypes made about a group of people that form outside a person’s conscious awareness, and conscious biases are attitudes formed with awareness.

In health care, cultural competence helps to break down these biases and develop more meaningful relationships with others, including patients, colleagues, leaders, and especially applicants. When applicants are first introduced to your organization, they gain an understanding of policies, workflows, and culture. During this process, it’s important that they feel comfortable and welcomed — from email correspondence to the interview process. Cultural competence in nurse recruitment means that you recognize and embrace the diversity of your candidates by being supportive, fair, and inclusive. Below are some tips you and your organization can use to incorporate more cultural competence in your recruitment process.

1. Establish inclusive hiring goals

Inclusive hiring involves a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And your organization’s dedication to DEI should be defined and communicated throughout the recruitment process. This means setting specific goals for increasing representation from underrepresented groups and tracking your progress.

According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, there are a few ways to set these goals:

  • Looking at local data. Examining data from your local communities can help how you approach your hiring goals. Use resources such as census and government population data to evaluate demographics, including race and ethnicity, sex, and age to guide your decisions. Your goals should align with the people who live and work in your area, said HBR.
  • Look at education in your region. From BSN to MSN, nursing education is an extremely important aspect to recruitment. Explore data related to education, breaking it down with demographic information in your area. Both the Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS) and United States Census Bureau offer education statistics to help finetune your targets. The National Council for the State Boards of Nursing (NCBSN) also offers insightful data. A recent NCBSN survey reported that nearly 20% of registered nurses earned a master’s degree, and as of 2022, there’s been an 11% increase in male nurses. Statistics like these can help you create thoughtful and realistic goals.

When establishing these objectives, it’s also important to hold yourself accountable in maintaining them, according to Forbes. Ensure everyone involved — from human resources representatives to nurse managers conducting interviews — is aligned and knows the part they play to achieve these goals.

2. Seek out diverse recruitment sources

Think about recruitment sources that could help you reach more diverse candidates. A few examples are partnerships with organizations in your community that specialize in supporting underrepresented groups, nursing schools, or professional associations with diverse memberships, such as the Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association. Building relationships and networking with these types of organizations can open up ways to connect with more people.

Explore ways to get more involved with those in your network to extend your reach, especially with organizations that support and partner with diverse groups. Consider investing in programs like mentorships or externships then sharing this with colleagues in your network to grow your candidate pool.

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3. Remove barriers, use unbiased language in job descriptions

Job descriptions are one of the first impressions of your organization that candidates get. Showing cultural competence at this stage means ensuring the details and requirements of your job listings are inclusive. This involves reviewing job postings to make certain they are free from biased language and unnecessary barriers that may dissuade diverse applicants.

Research has shown that biased language as well as certain barriers can discourage candidates from applying. One study found that women had a lower sense of belonging to organizations with job ads featuring masculine language. And another study on perceptions of Black nurses found that lack of diverse representation and inadequate supervisory experience were barriers to career advancement. Nurses in this study emphasized that seeing more representation of Black nurses and the removal of mandatory experience could break down walls that limit some nurses from advancing in their careers.

Below are tips to optimize your job descriptions so that they’re free from bias and welcoming to all:

  • Use inclusive and gender-neutral language. Composing inclusive, unbiased job descriptions involves respect and understanding of different backgrounds. When writing job details, be mindful of the cultural and social caveats in your word choices. This means recognizing and eliminating racial and gender bias. For instance, avoid using gendered terms, such as manpower or salesman, and use sensitivity with roles that require a proficiency in the English, avoiding phrases like “Native English speaker” and  replacing them with phrases such as “proficient in English” or “fluent in English.” The words you choose give applicants a snippet of what you and your organization value, so sticking with descriptions that are accepting to everyone is crucial
  • Focus on essential skills and qualifications. A long list of job requirements can be overwhelming to applicants and create additional barriers to obtaining employment. In fact, research has shown that women typically apply to jobs only when they meet 100% of criteria with men applying when they meet 60%. While certain qualifications in nursing roles can’t be understated, including licensure and education requirements, one way to make job descriptions more attainable is to emphasize only the necessary skills and requirements for the role. Revise job details and separate the essential requirements from the flexible ones. For example, adjusting areas like years of experience or familiarity with certain technology can give more opportunities to nursing staff who wouldn’t previously meet those requirements.

4. Strive for more diverse representation among interviewers

Diverse representation in interviewers provides a broader perspective and can mitigate unconscious biases. This structure helps create an environment where candidates from various backgrounds feel more comfortable and relate to those conducting the interview.

According to Indeed, backgrounds, such as race and ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, are not the only important component when selecting potential interviewers. The skill set and abilities of the interviewers are equally as important. Having representation that includes individuals with various educational backgrounds, from different positions, and with different years of experience can be beneficial when assessing applicants during the interview process.

In addition, ensure the questions asked during interviews are structured and standardized. That means remaining consistent and having the same list of questions for every interview. An article from the Harvard Business School suggests also asking the questions in the same order and keeping the questions related directly to the role itself. “Craft a list of questions that are aligned directly with what will define success in this role and remove any that are superfluous or could exacerbate bias,” the article said.

5. Invest in cultural competence training

One direct way to incorporate cultural competence in nurse recruitment is to offer cultural competence training to your recruiting and hiring teams. This training defines what cultural competence is, helps develop a shared understanding of diversity, and improves the skills needed to evaluate candidates fairly. It also dives deeper into topics like unconscious bias, cultural awareness, and inclusive hiring practices, so everyone better understands the importance of diversity and how to embrace it with sensitivity and respect.

The goal of cultural competence training, particularly in hiring, is to make applicants feel comfortable and respected at every step. This includes having staff understand the bias in themselves as well as others and respect backgrounds different from their own. According to LinkedIn, effective cultural competence during hiring can lead to:

  • Applicants being more open about themselves
  • More candidates choosing your organization over others
  • Applicants sharing positive feedback about their experience to their community

Cultural competence training isn’t just an effective tool for nurse-patient relationships. For recruiters and other hiring staff, this training offers valuable insights on diversity and the skills to attract and hire the most qualified candidates. By understanding different cultural backgrounds, you can create inclusive hiring processes, enhance cultural sensitivity, and foster a more diverse and dynamic workforce.

Final thoughts

Being culturally competent in nurse recruitment is a continuous learning process. However, its value and impact cannot be overstated. Through cultural competence, you embrace diversity not only in your applicants but in the patients you serve. Cultural competence promotes an environment that is empathetic and understanding to nurses and other staff within your organization. This translates to the delivery of culturally sensitive healthcare services. By taking these steps along with consistently evaluating and refining your recruitment processes, you’ll ensure your candidates receive an inclusive and honest hiring experience.

For more information on recruiting through our skills-based talent marketplace or to build your custom talent acquisition solution package, contact us today.