Nursing has been in a state of crisis for several years now. While the problem isn’t as bad as it was during the height of COVID, many hospitals all over the country are quietly suffering through staffing shortages that make it difficult for them to meet their community’s healthcare needs.
The terrible thing is that these shortages breed more shortages. The nurses who are still sticking around begin to feel burnt out as they work stressful shifts on skeleton crews. If the burnout gets bad enough, they quit.
Is there a marketing-related solution to the problem? A way to present the life of a nurse to the public in a way that inspires college students to explore a career in healthcare?
In this article, we take a look at ways to market healthcare job opportunities in a way that could reduce the nursing shortage.
Understanding the Problem
First, it’s important to understand what exactly is happening here. Many people think that the shortage began as a result of Covid. Nurses were presented with an impossible choice. Do their jobs and run the risk of contracting a potentially deadly illness, or pivot into an entirely different career.
Some did choose the latter and it did create a legitimate strain on the healthcare system. However, Covid has been subdued for the last two years. Why is the healthcare system still suffering from it?
The answer to that question is for complex than this article could possibly describe in one thousand or so words.
However, there is a relatively straightforward answer that we can tackle: Covid only exacerbated an issue that already existed. For many years, nurses have been leaving at a higher rate than new healthcare professionals have been coming in.
That’s an unsustainable dynamic that has now come to a dangerous head.
From a marketing perspective, this means that the job isn’t to notify people that nursing jobs exist— a fact that most people are already well aware of anyway. It’s to generate interest in healthcare work—particularly with people who are at an age where they are considering their career.
Below, we describe marketing efforts that could help make a difference.
Who Are Our Marketers?
That’s a fine question. There isn’t a vague marketing-related entity setting out to altruistically cure global nursing shortages. The actual humans beyond the efforts we are about to describe will most likely represent hospitals and universities. Places that need to directly attract people interested in healthcare work.
Step One: Establish a Target Demographic
Discovering your audience is one of the most important steps of any marketing project. It’s the foundation upon which you build all of your other outreach efforts. While a granular answer to this question would have to come on the heels of a significant amount of data, we can establish a basic profile based on information already discussed in this article.
In an earlier heading, we mentioned that the nursing profession has more outgoing professionals than it does nursing students rising through the ranks.
While there may be worthwhile marketing campaigns that could direct established nurses’ attention to unique benefit programs, or other incentives designed to keep them on the job, the most impactful campaigns in this context will most likely target college students.
In other words, how can stakeholders— universities and hospitals—zreach the next generation of potential nurses?
Step Two: Select your Mediums
Now that we have established our target audience, it’s important to decide how we will reach them. Social media is an obvious and inevitable choice. This could mean leveraging targeted campaigns to direct incoming students’ attention toward nursing programs.
In a marketing scenario designed to reduce nursing shortages, social media is an obvious tool that would certainly be used. However, a university’s marketing strategy may also involve physical outreach—sometimes beginning as early as high school.
For example, when universities set up shop in a high school gymnasium and hand out literature, that is a form of marketing outreach. Directing high school students’ attention toward nursing programs is a good way to increase potential enrollment at a stage when people have yet to make major career choices.
Similar efforts can made during freshmen orientation, “quad days,” and other events designed to call attention to the various opportunities incoming students will have.
Step Three: Set Goals
Marketing isn’t about shouting your message out to the world and hoping someone hears it. It’s about leveraging a nuanced strategy to accomplish specific things. Your goal could be to increase enrollment numbers for the school nursing program. A longer-term goal may be to increase graduation rates of that same program. The latter objective is even better because it indicates that your outreach efforts are targeting the right people.
Not only do you need to have clearly stated, measurable objectives, but you also need the ability to constantly evaluate them.
Step Four: Initiate your Campaign
Once you’ve got your target, your medium, and your objectives, it’s time to start. Remember that the reason marketers establish goals— aside from determining if they’ve been successful— is so that they can revise their campaign constantly to improve results.
As the hypothetical campaign takes off, it’s important to constantly look at the numbers. Are students engaging with the social media posts? How many direct student contacts are we making? Have enrollment numbers gone up?
By responding to data and routinely revising their efforts, marketers reduce the guesswork from their approach.
It’s important to point out that, while the tips described above could be impactful, they only skirt the edge of the issue. Healthcare is not in a state of crisis due to poor marketing. The primary issue is nursing itself. The job is very hard and for far too long, hospitals haven’t taken that seriously enough.
From twelve-hour shifts to routine emotional trauma, nurses deal with a lot. Hospitals are slowly working toward improving the lifestyle experience they provide their nurses. It’s an ongoing effort and one that has not yet reached maturity.
However, it’s undeniably the most important step toward reducing nursing shortages. Getting people to take the job is great. That’s where good marketing has a role to play. Keeping them on the job is the trickier part.