Master's Candidates

Master's candidatesThe process for recruiting candidates from sponsoring employers to complete their master’s degrees was complex and involved cooperative work between the employers and the University of Wisconsin (UW) System. Since the SWIFT project funding was granted to the UW System, the nurse educator candidates had to attend one of the four UW programs offering a master’s degree in nursing (UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Osh Kosh, or UW-Eau Claire).

The sponsoring health care employers were primarily responsible for recruiting the nurse educator candidates from among their employees, but some support was provided by the SWIFT project staff, and the employers freely shared their recruitment materials with one another. Each sponsoring employer appointed a SWIFT liaison who assumed responsibility for recruiting the SWIFT candidates and monitoring their progress as they completed their coursework. The liaisons scheduled candidate information forums and developed recruiting and application materials, including interview question grids to select the SWIFT candidates. Exemplars of these materials are available, as listed below:

Among the larger employers, there was significant interest among the nurses regarding the opportunity to return to school for a master’s degree with substantial tuition support plus paid time off each week, so a competitive application process was developed. Among smaller employers, candidate recruitment proved to be more challenging. In fact one long term care system in Wisconsin had agreed to sponsor at least two candidates, but they were unable to recruit any candidates, despite strong support from the local UW nursing program and the SWIFT Project Director. These individuals spent one day at the system’s central facility talking with and encouraging prospective candidates to apply for the SWIFT program, but no one actually stepped forward to apply. In a follow-up meeting with the leadership from this employer, it was theorized that since the organization had no current role models with master’s degrees among their nursing staff, their staff couldn’t really visualize why they would want to return to school for an advanced degree. Although the organization had developed roles for clinical nurse specialists, they had hoped to “grow their own,” in part, through the SWIFT program. Since this did not happen, they decided to hire some clinical specialists from the outside to help transform their nursing practice model.

The university admission processes were major issues in recruiting the nurse educator candidates. Some programs admitted new master’s students twice a year, while others admitted them only once a year, and admissions were processed several months before the actual start of the of program. This meant that prospective candidates had to have all their admissions documents submitted way ahead of the time they actually would begin their studies toward their master’s degrees. The SWIFT liaisons were unfamiliar with the admissions processes and often unable to answer questions from prospective candidates, so the SWIFT staff worked with the admissions staff at each of the UW programs to make sure they understood the SWIFT program and knew who the liaisons were from the sponsoring employers in their areas. This facilitated communication among these key individuals, and in some cases, the admissions staff attended the SWIFT information forums held by the employers as they were recruiting candidates. Other challenges in recruiting master’s candidates are specifically described in the Lessons Learned section.