Maneuvers for Hiring Nurses During COVID-19

High-tech tools and inventive moves can keep recruiters on the go.

Will nurse recruiters ever catch a break? Recruiters are all too familiar with the uphill battle of hiring during normal challenges, such as the nursing shortage. But now we have the perfect storm as recruiters struggle even more with hiring nurses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Recruiters are now trying to pull off one of the greatest feats ever — pulling nurses out of thin air. Let’s find out how to make that happen during a pandemic.

Lisa Marie May is the senior director of talent acquisition with Avamere Health Services, a provider of skilled nursing facilities in nine states and headquartered in Wilsonville, Ore. May sees a trend where it appears nurses are not too keen on leaving their current positions.

“One thing impacting recruiting, we have clinical people staying put and not willing to move on to new employment,” she said. “With skilled clinical professionals, the number of people in our applicant pool has dropped, and not as many people are applying.”

Given the high demand for nurses, the dangers of healthcare jobs, and the idea that no one can feasibly predict the fallout from COVID-19,  job change at a time like this is considered a risky and disruptive move.

What does fewer applicants mean for healthcare facilities hiring nurses during coronavirus?

To minimize stress and disruption, it only makes sense that nurses want to keep their existing jobs and the familiarity that goes with their surroundings, May said. It not only helps nurses preserve their own well-being, but also their patients’ well-being too.

“It’s the caring nature of the (healthcare) staff, that they don’t want to interrupt what is going on because they are dedicated to the patients and don’t want to disrupt the continuum of care,” May said.

Admittedly, that kind of dedication comes with a double-edged sword, especially for organizations in dire need of clinical staff, which includes rural locations.

“We already have a shortage, so it impacts recruiting even more,” May said.

Virtual interviews, meetings become common

Face-to-face interviews probably feel like a distant memory and a luxury offering that once helped your candidates get a warm, fuzzy feeling during the hiring process. But now with our social distancing marching orders in place, that leaves recruiters swapping in-person interviews for virtual meetings.

Lisa Rangel spent 13 years in recruiting. She’s the founder and managing director of Chameleon Resumes, a Rutherford, N.J., company, with clients in sectors including healthcare, legal and finance.

“A lot of clients are asking if coronavirus will slow down hiring,” she said.

It’s a great question for healthcare recruiters to ask during a time when several other job sectors have already collapsed and  unemployment claims are on the rise.

Even with quarantines in place, we have workarounds to help recruiters stay one step ahead. High-tech tools such as Zoom, MS Teams and Slack makes virtual interviews a reality, she said.

WebEx and UBER Conference also provide video or audio-conferencing capability, adding to the toolkit for professionals recruiting nurses during COVID-19.

Keep in mind, sometimes video conferencing only provides audio, not the live video portion, according to May. As a reminder, this can make an interview feel impersonal, and candidates don’t always like the experience under normal circumstances.

But given our unique situation in the middle of a pandemic, hopefully candidates will show some compassion.



The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that recruiters also are using Skype, Google Hangouts and BlueJeans to connect recruiters with candidates,

SHRM reminds recruiters to prepare candidates for a virtual interview.

  • Give them plenty of advance time to download software or collect documents.
  • Answer any questions the candidate may have before using video conferencing technology.
  • Test the apps and webcams in advance of the interview to help prevent connectivity issues.

Nurse finder: Where would you look?

Some states have been hit harder by COVID-19, such as New York, Washington and California. This has recruiters stepping up their game.

“In Washington state, considering we have facilities in rural areas, which is difficult, but with the virus, we are looking at targeting retired nurses to re-enter the workplace,” May said. As for which positions are best suited for retired nurses, May said the verdict is still out and it’s hard to say.

Nurses are being asked to come out of retirement to help with the pandemic by answering calls on COVID-19 hotlines.

Colorado is honoring a 60-day grace period for nurses with expired licenses

May said they are still working out the details, but most likely will target housing communities with residents age 55 and older to find qualified retired nurses. They are also considering places such as community centers and senior centers.

“We are in talks with these groups,” May said. “It’s possible we might send out emails through their channels or go through HOAs who have compiled email lists.”

Finally, if it’s possible for employers to offer flexible schedules, May said that will help attract more nursing applicants.