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Ideas for Improving Staff Recruitment and Retention in the Emergency Department

Published April 12, 2024
nurses rushing patient to the emergency department

Emergency medicine recruitment and retention have been, and continue to be, pressing challenges for healthcare organizations. For example, in 2022, RN turnover rates in emergency departments, step-down units, telemetry, and behavioral health were 111.4%. High turnover rates, physician and nurse burnout, and an extremely competitive job market all contribute to emergency room staffing shortages and retention challenges.

Fortunately, it's possible to improve emergency medicine recruiting and retention strategies while decreasing staffing shortages, reducing the financial burden of high turnover, increasing staff satisfaction, and ultimately enhancing the quality of patient care. The following strategies can help your emergency department resolve recruitment and retention issues.


Review and Optimize Your Emergency Department Recruitment Process

The first step to improving your recruitment strategies is examining your current processes and identifying areas for improvement. You can begin your review by analyzing key recruitment metrics such as your department's time-to-hire, offer acceptance, and quality-of-hire rates. Benchmark these against industry averages to get an idea of where your emergency department stands.

For example, it takes organizations an average of 59.5 days to hire healthcare providers. If your organization typically spends 65 days hiring an emergency medicine physician, there may be an issue in your recruitment process that warrants further investigation. 

Common challenges affecting emergency department time-to-hire rates include high competition, limited candidate pools, and complex credentialing processes. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself during your review to help identify potential areas of improvement:

  • Is your current process attracting qualified candidates to meet recruitment goals and ensure adequate staffing levels?
  • Are doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff accepting your job offers or going elsewhere?
  • Is your physician database and candidate talent pool deep enough to meet ongoing staffing needs?

Don’t Forget to Check Your ATS

You should also ensure your organization is maximizing the capabilities of your applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS should streamline candidate selection and prevent communication delays between potential hires and emergency medicine recruiters, keeping talent from turning to competitors. Organizations often underutilize their ATS due to factors like undefined processes or unnecessary screening filters. Finding ways to enhance your ATS can improve your overall recruitment process.

Once you can pinpoint areas in your overall recruitment process that need improvement, you can take steps to make them better

Plan to Retain ER Talent Before Onboarding

Rather than prioritize retention later in the pipeline, it's essential to consider retention strategies from the initial stages of recruitment. By integrating retention strategies with your recruitment processes, you can hire the right candidates who are more likely to stay with your organization long-term. 

A few ways to incorporate retention before onboarding include: 

  • Running a compensation survey to ensure you're offering competitive wages.
  • Hiring for core value fit rather than just to fill openings.
  • Highlighting professional development opportunities and company culture from the start.

Evaluate Your Healthcare Organization's Employer Brand

Healthcare is one of the most competitive fields out there. For that reason, your organization must set itself apart. An effective way to do so is by reviewing and revamping your employer brand.

An employer brand aims to convey a company's missions and values, showcasing a healthy work environment and positive staff experiences. If your employer brand is strong, it can help candidates view your emergency department as a desirable place to work — which can reduce cost-per-hire and turnover rates and lead to a faster time-to-hire. 

Some qualities that make a workplace desirable for healthcare workers include:

  • Competitive pay
  • Commitment to excellence, safety, and patient-centered care
  • Supportive leadership
  • Inclusive culture
  • Alignment with personal values

Make sure your employer brand accurately reflects your organization's values and missions — and consider ways to make it shine.

Streamline the Onboarding Process for Emergency Department Hires

A positive, simplified onboarding experience builds the foundation for staff trust and confidence while encouraging new hires to stay. Streamlined onboarding can be critical for recent graduates adjusting to the workforce. For instance, according to a systematic review of healthcare retention strategies, multiple sources confirm that new nurses feel overwhelmed as they transition into nursing roles, emphasizing the importance of smooth onboarding.

An efficient onboarding process provides benefits for everyone involved, as it:

  • Creates a positive first impression and reduces frustration among new hires.
  • Improves retention by setting clear expectations and providing support from the start.
  • Reduces the workloads for HR and internal recruiters.

One way to improve your onboarding process is to ensure it's mobile-compatible. According to the Pew Research Center, 99% of U.S. adults ages 18 to 49 own a cellphone, and 97% own a smartphone. Therefore, you can use mobile technology to create a convenient onboarding process and meet recent grads where they're at. This process may include making it easy for new hires to read and sign documentation on their phones and regularly checking in with them via text messages.

Other onboarding tips include:

  • Utilizing your ATS and artificial intelligence solutions to automate tasks like information collection.
  • Using credential tracking software and checklist templates to make sure you have essential documents.
  • Collaborating with team members to build a thorough onboarding process to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Providing an online onboarding portal where new hires can access training, documentation, and communications.

Focus on Preventing Burnout Among Emergency Department Staff

Emergency department staff are regularly exposed to high-stress levels, which can eventually lead to burnout if left unaddressed. Given the inherent stress of the ER, burnout is prevalent among emergency healthcare professionals. For example, according to the 2024 Physician Burnout and Depression Report, 63% of emergency medicine physicians are experiencing burnout.

Burnout is a serious issue for healthcare organizations because it decreases job performance and contributes greatly to high turnover rates. Preventing burnout among emergency department staff is vital for increasing retention.

Tactics used to address staff burnout vary among organizations. Still, the following strategies can help emergency department doctors and nurses feel supported, engaged, and less over-burdened:

  • Maintain adequate staffing levels to reduce workloads.
  • Increase compensation if feasible.
  • Open a conversation about burnout and create a welcoming space for staff to express their needs and concerns.
  • Get staff involved in process improvements with the aim of reducing work-related demands and creating a positive, supportive environment.
  • Prioritize offering wellness benefits and opportunities to connect with peers.
  • Provide ways to give staff more autonomy and control.
  • Ensure staff is adequately trained on the department's EHR and has access to sufficient personal protective equipment.
  • Focus on improving work-life balance and encourage staff to take time off.
  • Increase engagement by offering opportunities for professional growth and development.

rpo providers for the ER department

Partner With Hueman RPO and Outsource Your ER Recruitment Process

The emergency department is a demanding environment with unique challenges, including unpredictable patient volumes and life-or-death medical situations. Finding talent to serve these needs requires tailored, carefully planned recruitment and retention strategies.

If your organization needs support improving or implementing your ER recruitment process, Hueman RPO is here for you. We are a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) provider with over 28 years of experience providing custom healthcare recruitment solutions

As an RPO provider with a deep understanding of emergency department staffing needs, we're here to manage every aspect of your recruitment process — from sourcing qualified talent to implementing streamlined onboarding. Our experienced recruiters can also work as an extension of your internal recruitment team and seamlessly integrate our solutions with your current processes.

Whether you want to transfer all or parts of your recruitment process to us, we offer the following:

  • Value-based hiring strategies
  • Scalable recruitment resources based on your unique needs
  • Access to a strong talent pool
  • Tailored recruitment strategies and a consultative approach
  • Ready-to-deploy recruitment technology
  • Dedicated recruitment team
  • Ability to run compensation surveys
  • DEI-certified recruiters to work within your existing DEI strategies

Our recruiters understand the complex challenges of healthcare recruitment and the urgency of filling critical roles. With our industry expertise, advanced recruitment technology, and proprietary strategies, you can rely on us as your healthcare RPO partner. 

If you're looking for a partner to provide tailored recruitment solutions that help your emergency department, fill out our contact form today! Contact our solutions team and take the first step in fulfilling your recruitment needs. 

  • Topics: 
  • Recruitment Process Outsourcing