Employer Recruitment

Employer recruitmentThe idea of developing collaborative partnerships among nursing education programs, health care employers, and workforce agencies to address the nurse educator shortage in Wisconsin was first construed by a group of nursing education and service leaders in the Milwaukee area, and the first employer partner was actually recruited before the SWIFT grant was awarded by the Department of Labor. In 2004 the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare System, then known as the Covenant Healthcare System, signed an agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing to provide master’s education leading to a Clinical Nurse Specialist degree to a group of 16 of their nurses with the express purpose that those nurses would teach part-time in local nursing programs upon completion of their graduate degrees. The required classes were all provided onsite at a Wheaton Franciscan facility during the early evening hours, facilitating the busy schedules of the nurses who chose to take advantage of this program. In addition, the tuition was substantially subsidized by the employer. These candidates all signed an agreement to remain with the Wheaton Franciscan System for a minimum of 3 years after completing their degrees, and the nurse leaders from the system stated their intentions to also use these new Clinical Nurse Specialists as teachers for local nursing programs using their facilities for clinical education.

Once the project was funded, the nurse executives at health care employers throughout Wisconsin were contacted by letter and telephone and asked to consider participating as an employer partner. A marketing brochure was developed, and the SWIFT Project Director was asked to make formal presentations about the project at several employers throughout the state. In addition, lead members of the project staff attended multiple statewide meetings of relevant health care and educational professional groups to publicize the SWIFT project and encourage the recruitment of both employers and nurse educator candidates. A letter of agreement between the University of Wisconsin System and the employer partners was drafted, and as employers decided to join as partners, they signed and returned the letter specifying the number of candidates they would sponsor and the specific support they would offer the candidates throughout the course of their master’s education. As noted in the Statewide Partners section, 7 employer partners participated in the SWIFT program, sponsoring a total of 38 nurse educator candidates to complete their master’s degrees in nursing. At least 15 health care employers throughout the state had indicated a strong interest in participating in SWIFT, but several could not dedicate the financial resources necessary to sponsor candidates through at least 2 years of graduate school, and others were unable to find nurses among their staff who were willing to return to school for graduate education and to work part-time as nurse educators afterward. The challenges in recruiting employers are specifically described in the Lessons Learned section.