Two Franklin health care facilities need about 50 more nurses to fill all their openings, and medical providers across the county are facing a similar shortage.
With unemployment low and the need for healthcare workers high, local assisted living facilities and Johnson Memorial Health are constantly recruiting nurses and nursing assistants.
Local facilities have become creative in how they look for and retain staff. They know they can’t pay the same wages as some of the large hospital networks, but they can offer a workplace environment that makes employees feel valued and welcome, and for some people, that means much more than money, local officials said.
Others have turned to educational partnerships. Homeview Health and Rehabilitation Center is partnering with Franklin Community High School to train new certified nursing assistants, or CNAs. Compass Park partnered with Franklin College to have students work as CNAs while also gaining the experience needed to pursue further education. Johnson Memorial Health routinely hires nursing students as patient care technicians with the goal of moving them into a nursing position once they finish school and get their license.
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Central Nine Career Center adult learners also do their clinicals at Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife Community, formerly the Franklin United Methodist Community, allowing them to begin building a relationship early on.
And Ivy Tech Community College has announced plans to add a nursing degree program at its Franklin campus.
The goal is to be proactive in recruiting efforts, finding new nurses early and trying to lure experienced ones as well, and selling local facilities as a great place to work, local healthcare officials said.
At Johnson Memorial Health, which has about 15 openings for full- and part-time nurses and 26 for PRN, or nurses who are scheduled as needed, officials struggle with filling any open positions when unemployment is so low, Human Resources Director Judy Ware said.
“It’s good for the community, but it can be hard for us,” she said.
The focus is to get their name out, so potential employees know who they are, including social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook and using professional organizations to help them reach potential employees, including ones who already have a job and may not necessarily be looking to switch, Ware said.
They use their size to their advantage. With 850 employees, staff members know each other and they know the hospital’s leadership, she said. Employees don’t need to pay to park or deal with the stressful commute in other areas, she said.
While they may not be able to pay as much as a larger network, they offer an environment where employees get to know each other while also still having access to the latest technology, she said.
“You can come here with an easy drive to work and still be in a hospital that is giving the best care to patients,” Ware said.
Employees get to know each other and develop relationships, and their network isn’t difficult to navigate if someone has an issue or a question. Employees are more than just a number in a system, and for some nurses, that is exactly what they are looking for, she said.
“We know there are going to be hospitals out there that pay better than we do. Our biggest selling point is our culture, our community atmosphere,” she said.
“That’s what we have to sell and that’s the type of people we attract, people who want that.”
If officials at Johnson Memorial get a resume they like, they need to contact that person immediately and not make them wait for days to hear back. By then, another healthcare provider could have already hied them, Ware said.
The work atmosphere and environment also is a key selling point at Otterbein, staff recruiter and trainer James Sells said.
“We have to be aggressive and look for people and we have to help them see why our organization is so good and why you want to work for us,” he said.
While hiring new employees is important, retaining staff is the best way to address any staffing shortage, he said. Currently, the assisted living facility has about five openings for certified nursing assistants and five for licensed practical nurses or registered nurses, he said.
Wages are important, and Otterbein works to be competitive, including bumping up their pay scale about two years ago. But smaller communities have to choose who to compete with, he said. For example, Franklin and Indianapolis are not in the same wage markets, he said.
But another important factor is their work environment, which includes employees’ workload and supervisors. A key reason employees in any job leave is because of their supervisor, not their pay, Sells said. That’s why the company works with its management to make sure they are leading with authenticity, which has a big impact, he said.
Recently, officials at the Franklin community also revamped their orientation process to help new employees feel more comfortable, with details that seem minor, such as navigating the lunchroom or finding your way around on your first day after orientation, including where the elevators are or where soiled laundry goes, he said.
The goal is to help new employees feel like they are valued and part of the overall family, he said. In fact, those changes were something Otterbein, a national senior living company, highlighted when partnering with the former Franklin United Methodist Community.
And when a position does need to be filled, officials look on multiple platforms for candidates and set up multiple interviews, Sells said. While a job posting might have brought in 50 to 100 resumes in the past, that just isn’t the case anymore, he said.
“With today’s market, we cannot be that passive, we have to secure interviews with as many as possible, and get them in the door to see our facility, our warmth and meet our residents,” he said.
His hope is that the overall shortage of nurses will continue to improve, especially as nursing education programs grow, he said.