nurse recruitment

Faced with a shortage of nurses, one trust set up a recruitment drive offering a range of training and work opportunities. Pat Worby and Val McGouran report

King's Lynn and Wisbech Hospitals trust, like many others, has a shortage of nurses, with vacancies in all departments. To overcome this, the service development department launched a recruitment drive in January to encourage nurses back to work. This initiative was later reinforced by health secretary Frank Dobson's call to the nation's nurses to return to their profession.

The recruitment drive consisted of advertisements in local papers, including several freesheets, and 'Your Hospital Needs You' posters sent to every GP surgery and library. The recruitment drive was also mentioned on local television and radio.

The advertisements and posters specified the need for general, paediatric and mental health nurses, and midwives. They mentioned the availability of free courses and opportunities for flexible working. A deliberate attempt was made throughout the promotion to appear flexible, friendly and approachable.

In response, 98 nurses telephoned the service development department, where one of the three members of staff answered their questions. The nurses were asked if they would like to come to an informal interview and were sent a brief questionnaire asking about their qualifications, registration details and time out of nursing.

Sixty-eight nurses requested interviews and these were organised at half- hourly intervals to allow plenty of time for each nurse. The returned questionnaire gave the interviewer the opportunity to greet all those attending in a personal way and put them at their ease.

No matter how short or long their absence from the profession, all the nurses suffered a lack of confidence. This was due to the time they had spent out of nursing, changes in healthcare and the fact that it was their first interview for some time. They were visibly affected by attending even an informal interview. It was an exhausting experience for the two interviewers as well as those being interviewed.

Suitable candidates were offered a choice of three courses which will be run at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, by the University of East Anglia school of nursing and midwifery. The start and finish time of the theoretical part of the course was organised to fit in with school term times.

The nurses were also offered a choice of clinical placements to gain practical experience and were advised on their suitability. Participants will be paid during the clinical placement part of their course.

Candidates were offered three one-day study skills sessions before starting their English National Board course 902 (return to practice), which lasts 12 weeks, and those who had been out of practice for 15 years or longer were offered an additional eight-week part-time open learning programme before beginning the ENB course.

Fifty-four nurses, aged between 30 and 50, have agreed to take the opportunity to attend one of the three ENB courses and return to practice. The service development department will monitor their progress with interest.

This has been a successful recruitment drive for the trust. The service development team feel that this is due to the wording of the advertisement, which enticed nurses to telephone, and the fact that we recognised the difficulties of those wanting to return to practice and responded appropriately. We also felt it was important to keep the phone staffed to take enquiries for as long as possible.

This campaign has been very interesting, educational and rewarding for all those involved. The trust is looking forward to employing this experienced group of nurses and is very pleased they decided to respond to the call. We are now planning to contact the nurses who did not follow up their first enquiry to see if they need more help or further information.

Pat Worby is head of service development and Val McGouran is research lecturer, service development, King's Lynn and Wisbech Hospitals trust.