Employing Recent Graduates in Assisted Living Facilities

April 18, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

Employing Recent Graduates in Assisted Living Facilities

The United States currently has the most people over 65 than at any other time. In 2019, there were more than 71 million people over age 65, and by 2029, every single living member of the baby boomer generation will be retirement age.

An aging population will need more care, both in the form of long-term care and assisted living. The more residents at a facility, the more nurses there need to be to care for those residents. Where can you look to find more nursing staff members for your facility? Recent graduates are most likely eager to enter the workforce and are looking for opportunities to advance their nursing careers. 

There are multiple benefits of employing recent nurse graduates, both for your assisted living facility and the graduates themselves. 

Benefits of Working in Long-Term Care Facilities for Recent Nurse Graduates

In 2019, 66 people per 100,000 inhabitants graduated from a nursing program in the U.S. That means there were around 200,000 graduates from nursing schools that year, more than enough to fill the 194,500 projected annual openings. A combination of an aging population and a retiring workforce will increase open nursing positions. By 2030, it's estimated that the number of annual openings will increase by 276,800. 

Nursing graduates are likely to find employment, particularly if they've earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Entry-level BSNs typically find work within six months of graduating. One survey found that 94% of BSNs had a job within four to six months of earning a degree. 

Working in a long-term care facility provides many benefits to new nurses, which they might not get in other health care settings. 

Working in a long-term care facility provides many benefits to new nurses, which they might not get in other health care settings.

1. There Are Plenty of Opportunities

People are getting older and living longer. As people age, the chance that they'll need some form of long-term care increases. The majority of people, 70%, will need long-term care. Around 20% will need care for more than five years. Thirteen percent of people will need care in an assisted living facility.

The more people who need care, the more opportunities there are for nurses to provide that care. Since there is the potential for a considerable demand for nurses, a recent graduate today might find they can climb the career ladder and advance into leadership roles in a long-term care facility more quickly than they would in a hospital setting or other health care setting. 

2. Schedules Can Be More Flexible

Long-term care facilities provide care to residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means that nurses who choose to work in an assisted living or another type of long-term care facility are likely to have more flexibility and choice in their schedule than a nurse who works in a private physician's office or a hospital.

Some nurses love the nocturnal, or NOC shift, and are happy to work overnight. Others want to work during the daytime to be home for their families in the evening. Working in an around-the-clock facility can provide recent graduates with the schedule flexibility they need.

3. Recent Graduates Gain Valuable Experience

Nursing school gives students the training they need for entry-level registered nurse positions. But it's the skills and experience they gain on the job that help new nurses move up the career ladder. 

When they work in an assisted living or another type of long-term care facility, nursing graduates get to experience the life and work of a nurse firsthand. They'll learn how to provide the best possible care to residents and work well with other nurses and medical staff. 

Whether they return to school to earn an advanced nursing degree or move into a leadership role, getting started at a long-term care facility will give recent graduates the confidence and experience they need to advance. 

4. Nurses Can Bond With Residents

People who live in long-term care facilities are usually there for an extended period. Many residents live in assisted living facilities for months, if not years. In hospitals and other health care settings, patients are typically in and out. They don't have much of a chance to build a rapport with their nursing care team.

Unlike hospital settings, nurses who work in long-term care settings have the chance to connect with and form lasting relationships with the people they care for. 

The nurse and resident relationship also benefits the residents. They can become comfortable with the people providing their care and establish a bond of trust and respect with the nursing team. 

a new nurse is likely to be happy about working in a long-term care facility, where they'll gain valuable on-the-job experience.

Why Hire Recent Graduates for an Assisted Living Facility?

Hiring recent nursing graduates is a win-win for long-term care facilities and nurses. Some of the reasons why hiring new nurses can make sense for your facility include:

1. New Nurses Often Have Difficulty Finding Positions

Although the nursing shortage is well-documented, newly graduated nurses often find themselves in a difficult situation. Many health care providers need nurses. However, many health care providers would prefer to hire nurses with some experience. 

A nurse who only recently earned their degree and passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) may have difficulty finding a job without much clinical experience. Training a new nurse can be expensive for hospitals, so many prefer to hire people who already have plenty of experience with basic nursing skills, such as hanging an IV or drawing blood.

After struggling to find a job in a hospital or other health care setting, a new nurse is likely to be happy about working in a long-term care facility, where they'll gain valuable on-the-job experience. 

2. Recent Nurse Graduates Are Likely to Be More Engaged

Nurse burnout is one factor that's contributing to the nursing shortage. A combination of long hours and high stress levels can cause a nurse to disengage from their role. In some cases, burnout can cause nurses to leave the profession entirely.

A new nurse is likely to be still excited about their job. Given the right support system and job structure, they can remain engaged in the work they do every day. When nurses are engaged on the job, they typically provide better care to residents, feel more satisfied in their work, and are less likely to quit. 

Hiring recent graduates and giving them a robust support system, such as training and feedback, and the option of pursuing leadership opportunities means you start with and keep an engaged team of nurses.

3. Employing Recent Nurse Graduates Helps Fill Staffing Gaps

When an established nurse leaves, you typically need to find at least one new nurse to replace them. Hiring recent graduates lets you fill any gaps in your staffing requirements. 

Filling staffing gaps helps improve the quality of care your residents receive. When enough nurses work each shift, your staff is less likely to make errors or cut corners. Having adequate staffing levels also means fewer complaints from your residents and their family members, earning your facility a better reputation. 

Having a large enough team of nurses also makes your staff happier. When nurses aren't stretched too thin, they can be less likely to get injured on the job and more likely to feel optimistic about coming in to work.

4. Hiring Recent Graduate Caregivers for Assisted Living Helps You Meet Required Ratios

Depending on the state you operate in, you may need to meet certain nurse-to-resident ratios. If you've been having difficulty finding nurses to hire to meet those ratios, hiring recent graduates can help. 

Meeting the required staffing ratios means that the residents at your facility are more likely to receive the best possible care. Fulfilling the requirements also creates a better work environment for your staff members and helps reduce turnover.

5. Hiring Recent Graduates Helps You Manage Costs

If cost is a concern, hiring recent graduates instead of more experienced and more expensive nurses is one way to help manage costs. New graduates tend to cost less per hour than nurses who have more years of experience. Your facility will get the level of staffing it needs without worrying about going over budget.

What to Look for When Hiring Recent Graduates in Long-Term Care Facilities 

Ideally, when you hire a new graduate, the person you hire will stay at your facility for as long as possible. You can minimize turnover and reduce your facility's quit rate by hiring people who are a good fit for the role. There's more to being a nurse than having medical knowledge and being able to provide care to residents. 

Keep an eye out for the following skills when you're searching for and interviewing candidates:

  • Compassion: A nurse should have compassion for the people they're caring for. While they want to maintain a professional relationship with the residents, it's also essential for nurses to care deeply for the people they work with. That can mean they take the time to listen to residents' concerns and attempt to address those concerns as much as possible.
  • Resiliency: Nurses see it all. Depending on the facility they work in, they might have to deal with angry outbursts from residents or messy accidents. A good nurse will be resilient and able to keep at the job even in challenges.
  • Time management skills: Time management is a critical skill for nurses, as they most likely will have several tasks to complete over a shift. Some of their tasks might be time-critical, such as making sure a resident gets their medication at a particular time.
  • Flexibility: No two days are alike in the life and work of a nurse. Nurses should be able to roll with the changes and adapt to changing demands. One shift, they might work on a floor with particularly challenging residents. The next, they might work on a relatively quiet floor. They might also have to adjust their schedules from week to week.
  • Professionalism: A good nurse should have a strong sense of professionalism. You can look for professionalism in how a nurse acts during an interview, how polished their resume is, and what their references say about them.

How to Attract Recent Nurse Graduates to Your Assisted Living Facility

How to Attract Recent Nurse Graduates to Your Assisted Living Facility

If you're ready to hire new nurses, it's helpful to know where to look for recent graduates and how to make your facility seem like an attractive place to work. 

1. Connect to Nurse Training Programs

Perhaps the best place to find candidates is in nurse training programs. Reach out to nursing programs in your general area to ask about any career day or career fair programs they run. Many schools have career offices that work to connect soon-to-graduate or recently graduated students to potential employers. 

You might also consider starting an internship or externship with some local nursing programs. Nursing students can gain valuable experience at your facility. You also have the opportunity to offer jobs to students who seem particularly promising.

2. Create a Great Job Description

Another way to attract early career nurses to your facility is to create a compelling job description. Describe the role's responsibilities and highlight how working for your organization will benefit nurses. 

For example, if you offer flexible scheduling options, call that out in the job description. Other perks you might highlight in the job description include:

  • Staff wellness programs
  • Work-life balance options
  • Paid time off
  • Benefits such as health insurance and retirement

It's also a good idea to share details about your organization in the job description. Include your facility's mission statement and stress that any nurses you hire would have a lasting impact on the lives of the people they'd work with.

3. Offer Career Advancement Opportunities

Continuing education is a critical part of being a nurse. Registered nurses need to complete continuing education programs to maintain their licenses. Some nurses are also hoping to move up the career ladder by earning master's degrees or doctoral degrees. 

Give newly graduated nurses a chance to advance in their careers. Doing so will make your facility an attractive place to work and improve the quality of applicants you get.

Your career advancement options can include mentoring programs with more experienced nursing staff or continuing education credits. You might consider offering tuition reimbursement to nurses who want to earn a master's or another advanced nursing degree if your budget allows. 

4. Develop Your Organization's Culture

When recruiting new nurses, focus on what makes your organization great. Create a policy that encourages teamwork so less experienced nurses can learn what they need to on the job. Focus on encouraging people to work together. Mentorship programs help establish a robust and supportive culture, as does giving staff a certain level of autonomy

Try a Demo of SmartLinx

Try a Demo of SmartLinx

Once you've hired early career nurses, you want to keep them on staff for as long as possible. SmartLinx software can help improve your onboarding process and increase your facility's retention rates. Our solution provides several features that increase employee engagement and autonomy, from shift swapping and management to real-time scheduling. Your nursing staff can request time off and otherwise manage their schedule using our software solution. 

SmartLinx also works with you during the hiring process. Use our solution to track and screen applicants and simplify the interview process. Schedule a demo today to learn more about our software solution and see how it works for yourself.

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