It’s no secret that America is experiencing a critical shortage of registered nurses (RNs). Burnout and disillusionment are driving nurses out of the workforce in record numbers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities are struggling to recruit and retain qualified nursing staff, and it’s impacting both patient care and their bottom line. 

But rather than just talking about this issue in vague generalities, I wanted to delve more deeply into the numbers — and offer a solution instead of simply adding to the doom and gloom. Here is a look at the true cost of RN vacancies, and a recommendation for how to avoid these costs in the first place. 

The true cost breakdown 

According to a 2022 industry study, the average cost of turnover for a staff RN is $46,100 per position, once you factor in recruitment costs and the expense of onboarding a new RN. The same study indicated that the average amount of time it takes to fill a vacant RN position, regardless of specialty, is 87 days. Essentially, this means that it takes three months to hire an experienced nurse when you need one. 

Where does so much of this cost come from, and why does it take so long? The problem lies with the traditional recruiting and staffing firms that so many hospitals, healthcare systems and long-term care facilities work with. The antiquated but established VMS or MSP systems and/or traditional recruiters often take weeks to replace an RN because hiring managers or staff need to comb through a likely outdated database of candidates. Then, they need to reach out to every single one to see if they are available or interested. Not all of them are, and the ones that do respond might involve extensive pay negotiations or delays in credentialing.  

The status quo of a hospital’s current recruitment process may seem effective until you realize that every day that a RN post goes vacant is a day that other nurses must take on more shifts, leading to greater burnout (and likely further turnover). This will hamper your facility’s ability to handle higher patient volumes, leading to lower quality care and lost revenue year over year

How to prevent these expenses

There’s no way around it: RN vacancies are expensive, especially during a nursing talent shortage. The answer to this dilemma, however, lies in automating your recruiting through direct sourcing, which is when employers directly engage and negotiate with their job candidates without third-party involvement. 

Working with traditional recruiters can be exorbitantly expensive, and automating recruiting with direct sourcing can save employers up to 35% on staffing costs. More importantly, direct sourcing shortens the life cycle of filling open RN jobs, saving time and operating costs. 

Direct sourcing platforms are able to do this because they often have large, engaged, pre-screened and constantly refreshed talent pools — no need for an individual human recruiter to call an outdated list of candidates to check if they are available to work. Employers are able to reach out to a candidate that has indicated they are interested in an open position, see data about what a good market compensation rate would be for them, and submit a pay bid to them directly, shortening the interview process and cutting right to the chase. 

These ready-to-go candidates have already created profiles with the platform’s service, uploading their credentials, key skills and other necessary information while frequently interacting with the job openings they are served each day. Healthcare employers can access their certifications, credentials and professional records all in one place. This is what saves even more time onboarding and credentialing, reducing the number of days your RN position has to go unfilled. Our employer members consistently see a 55% response rate to their openings, compared to traditional job boards, which hover somewhere between 2-5%. 

RNs and skilled nursing staff are crucial to long-term care facilities and other healthcare providers. Hiring them does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. The right direct sourcing partner can save you money and drastically shorten the amount of time you spend recruiting for an open RN position, reducing revenue loss and keeping you well-staffed and able to handle patient volume. 

Bryan Groom is the healthcare division president at SkillGigs, Inc., an ecommerce talent marketplace that pairs skilled healthcare and technology job seekers with AI-matched work opportunities.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.