Like most children’s hospitals, the pandemic exacerbated a growing problem for Texas Children’s Hospital in staffing nurses and other frontline health care workers. Facing hundreds of open positions across the organization, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Jackie Ward, knew a change was needed. No longer could Texas Children’s passively rely upon its strong reputation as an employer in the community and await applicants—it needed to be aggressive. She charged two of her nursing leaders with the task of revamping the hiring process.
“Jackie challenged us—she said, ‘I'm giving you guys 30 days,’” says Anita Harris-Brown, director of clinical support operations at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. “That really made us step up to the plate as leaders, but we are committed to this effort because—at the end of the day—these are employees who are touching the lives of every one of our patients.”
Harris-Brown, along with her colleague, Karen Sripan, answered the call by creating a centralized hiring hub to support the rapid hiring and onboarding of qualified candidates across the organization, particularly among registered nurse (RN) and patient care assistant (PCA) roles. The nursing hiring hub command center streamlined hiring by instituting several process improvements, including:
- Trimming interviews from 10 (or more) questions to three.
- Extending same-day job offers.
- Fast-tracking compensation packages with the human resources department.
- Hosting virtual job fairs.
Central to the initiative was universal buy-in from all parties involved in the hiring process to ensure no unnecessary lags in the timeline. The result: the average time elapsed from job application to onboarding went from 180 days to 45 days.
“The leaders participating in this program had to be flexible and adaptable to doing things differently from how they traditionally recruited,” says Sripan, director of patient care services. “We want quality, but we also have to be efficient with the talent we're bringing in because that extra time meant we were losing candidates to competing offers.”
Recruiting for expanding roles
Another key aspect of the centralized hiring hub initiative is what Harris-Brown and Sripan refer to as their “no candidate left behind” motto. While not every applicant is bound to be a perfect fit for the job for which they’re applying, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a place at Texas Children’s. The program not only strives to find an appropriate match in the organization for motivated, qualified candidates, but it also provides them with a roadmap to achieve their career goals.
Sripan says one staff member, originally hired as a patient sitter, exemplifies this process. “We recently had a celebration for her in the float pool because she got promoted from a sitter to a PCA and she was so ecstatic,” Sripan says. “She was over the moon that we took a chance on her and gave her the time to develop to where she could be a PCA.”
Centralized hub for all staffing roles
The practices solidified by the hiring hub initiative are bound to remain beyond the current nurse staffing shortages. Harris-Brown says the protocols have become the “gold standard” for hiring at Texas Children’s; the processes have been expanded beyond nursing to all corners of the organization.
“Certainly, we're going to continue to focus on retention as a priority so that we don't have to have such a strong recruitment strategy, but we'll never stop hiring nurses here,” Ward says. “This strategy has allowed us to put more productive nurses quickly into the clinical environment and that's what's most important.”