Our friends in rural communities see plenty of challenges that some of the more densely populated communities don’t have to manage through.  
For one, rural healthcare organizations have to contend with attracting talent away from urban areas where candidates received their training or face understaffing, which leads to increased workloads, overtime, and limited scheduling flexibility.  Urban healthcare organizations also have more readily available resources due to higher population densities, which allows them to offer more competitive salaries and benefits, along with being a very desirable place to reside for many younger job seekers.  
We certainly empathize with our rural community partners, and wanted to offer some suggestions of ways our customers have seen success in their communities.

Social Media Recruitment

One of the greatest impacts on society in recent years has been the emergence of social media and how we interact with each other as a result.  Facebook has taken the world by storm with a network of over 2.7 billion monthly active users.  For context, the #1 job site in the world estimates over 250 million unique monthly visitors.  Facebook gets nearly 11x the visitors on a monthly basis.  That is a massive network of individuals.  
Facebook’s model has changed over the years from a traditional peer-to-peer networking site to one where businesses can advertise and connect with their local communities.  Did you know that Facebook allows you to promote your open positions on your company page for free?  This is an excellent way to connect with your community and let job seekers know that you have open positions.  
Hireology’s integration with Facebook went live in May 2020, and accounted for 15% of customer healthcare applicants received through December. A total of 7% of all healthcare hires are directly attributable to Facebook.  
As you amass followers, utilizing your social media network is a powerful way to extend your reach when searching for candidates outside of your typical channels like job boards or your website.  Through Facebook, you can host virtual events, such as job fairs, to engage further with your community and give job seekers an opportunity to see what you’re all about.  

Expand Your Reach

Organizations that reside in more remote locations have an opportunity to expand their reach and find job seekers that are willing to commute.  There is clearly a limit to how far a person can be reasonably expected to commute on a daily basis, but structuring schedules in a way to be more favorable for employees to travel from farther distances opens up your options.
By increasing the radius of your search area, you can capture individuals that are eager to work but otherwise wouldn’t have known about your open positions.  The goal is to cast your net out wider and let potential job seekers know about your open positions, but you can only accomplish this if you’re seeking out those job seekers to begin with.       

Consider Foreign-Born Talent

As you continue to recruit outside of your immediate vicinity, you should also explore recruiting foreign-born healthcare professionals.  While requirements will vary by state, there are government issued visa programs that support regions which are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) or as Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P).  The H-1B Specialty Occupations Visa is employer-sponsored, can be used for positions such as physicians, nurses, and physical therapists, and can be issued for three years with the ability to extend for an additional three years depending on need.  The eligibility criteria will vary by state, but additional information can be found at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website that outlines the requirements in greater detail.  

Census Challenges

Patient census variations happen to all facilities and this is not unique to rural communities, however, these variations affect rural communities differently.  Forecasting is challenging, and 2020 certainly didn’t do you any favors.  When censuses are high, you can’t find enough people to adequately staff your facilities. When censuses are low, you have to reduce hours which hurts your employees.  And when employees are unhappy with that outcome, they start to look for work elsewhere which hurts your organization in the long-term.  So what can or should you do? 
Have you considered labor sharing partnerships with other organizations in your community, such as colleges, universities, vocational schools, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, hotels, restaurants, or home health and home care organizations?  These types of agreements allow facilities like yours access to a wider network of currently employed staff that may be looking to pick up extra shifts.  Programs like this tend to be more attractive to employees by providing additional flexibility when managing their own schedules.  These types of programs are especially effective when your census is down, but other facilities need more staff to cover shifts.  You are not saddled with additional costs and the other facility benefits by being able to staff their shifts.  
There will be some obvious challenges with this approach, but with some effort and planning, a successful labor-sharing program implementation will not only help your organization, but the community at large too.  Complex problems require creative solutions and leaders like you to influence change.    

Offer Additional Benefits

One final suggestion is to get creative with the benefits that you are currently offering to your employees.  Providing tuition assistance programs or additional professional training courses is an excellent way to deliver value to your employees that want to advance their careers.  For example, if you have a CNA that wants to become an RN or a high quality candidate that wants to continue their education or professional development, you can offer tuition assistance, which will help both you and the employee long-term.  We have found that by offering benefits other than increased pay, our clients have been able to attract candidates and keep them longer.
Other successful organizations have developed mentorship programs to help foster a sense of community between more senior employees and new employees. This inclusion initiative is a major driver in increasing retention rates and keeping employees engaged.

Final Thoughts

The suggestions we listed above come directly from existing clients just like you that we thought might benefit your organization.  We understand that rural communities face these challenges as well as many others, but we encourage you to reach out and share your stories with us.  We are always happy to hear from you and share best practices from our partners that have helped them to address some of their challenges.
From all of us here at Hireology, we want to wish you well and thank you for continuing to support our most vulnerable community members with your desperately needed services.  We eagerly look forward to 2021 and the promise that it brings!  
If you’re interested in seeing how Hireology works to make your hiring process as efficient as possible, you can schedule a demo here.