Transforming Clinical Recruitment: How One Health System Hired 965 Clinicians in 9 Months

April 5, 2024 | Workforce Solutions

The clinical staffing landscape is becoming increasingly challenging each year, exacerbated by a 22.5% national RN turnover rate and the anticipated retirement of over 1 million RNs by 2030. This dwindling pool of qualified candidates puts pressure on nurse leaders, who bear the brunt of workforce management responsibilities. To effectively compete for talent, health systems must adopt modern recruitment methods like those used by Aya Healthcare, the largest talent software and staffing provider in the nation. Aya’s digital marketing strategies and fast, candidate-centric approaches have set the standard for efficient clinical recruitment. By employing agency-like efficiency, health systems can rapidly secure and place candidates to fill critical core staff vacancies and reduce reliance on contingent labor.

How It Started

Over the past year, SSM Health has discovered the power of incorporating agency staffing strategies into its recruitment processes. To do this, SSM Health applied successful strategies utilized by hiring agencies to greatly improve its recruitment efficiency.

When Caitlyn Obrock, ICU manager at SSM Health, worked with travel nurses in her unit, she spent a considerable amount of time getting to know them personally. Over six months, Obrock converted 65 travel nurses into permanent staff at SSM Health. Soon, the nursing leadership team wanted to scale Obrock’s model, promoting her to the role of senior nurse influencer. From that point on, she and her team began to identify the greatest workforce barriers, developing four Big Bold Moves to significantly improve their hiring processes.


  1. Centralized Hiring Team. The first thing Caitlyn did was form a dedicated clinical recruitment team, in addition to the existing Talent Acquisition team, focused on hiring a high volume of permanent staff nurses more quickly. This specialized, clinician-driven team started small, initially consisting of one recruiter, one compensation consultant, and two nurse influencers. This team eventually grew to include 3 influencers, 3 recruiters, a communications consultant, a marketing manager, and a multi-media specialist. Caitlyn’s team complemented the broader Talent Acquisition team’s efforts with its focused expertise in clinical recruitment.
  2. Rapid Response. When an individual applied to an open position, the assigned nurse influencer quickly contacted the applicant— often within two hours. To increase engagement, nurse influencers communicated with applicants via text. This proved to be a much more effective communication tool than traditional email, significantly improving candidates’ responsiveness during the hiring process. 

  3. Always Be Hiring. Caitlyn and her team identified position control as a significant barrier in the hiring process. As Caitlyn observed, “Why is Starbucks always hiring but in healthcare, we put all these barriers upon ourselves? At the end of the day, we just want to bring people in.” They streamlined their requisition form to attract a broader pool of candidates. Following this, the team carefully guided each clinician into the role best suited for their skills and expertise.
  4. Engaging with Social Media. As the final phase of this initial growth effort, the clinical recruitment team began to make moves in the social media space. Nurse influencers began posting content that resonated with current and prospective clinicians. April Hansen, Group President of Workforce Solutions at Aya Healthcare, pointed out, “The difference that social media has brought to us is that it doesn’t have to be perfect… when it comes to [SSM Health Careers’ social media], these are humans. And they’re looking to identify with a community.”


How It’s Going

After applying these Big Bold Moves, Caitlyn’s clinical recruitment team rapidly achieved its goal of filling their permanent vacancies. In just nine months, the health system hired 965 new nurses. Its time-to-fill also decreased from 210 days (about 7 months) to just 15.5 days, and the percentage of ready-to-hire applicants increased by 70% over the previous year. Brand awareness was also at an all-time high, with 2M+ impressions and 2.5% engagement on social media. In all, Caitlyn’s team reduced agency costs from $6.8 million to $2.9 million from January to September 2023.

Health systems don’t have to become their own staffing agencies to meet their growing workforce needs, but they can incorporate staffing agency recruitment strategies to hire quickly at scale. By hiring like an agency, health systems can meet their core staff needs while reducing contingent labor costs and reliance on staffing agencies.


    1. Buerhaus, P. I., Auerbach, D. I., & Staiger, D. O. (2017, May 3). How Should We Prepare For The Wave Of Retiring Baby Boomer Nurses? Health Affairs.​
    2. 2023 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report. (2023)
    3. American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL). (2023, May 11). Nurse Leadership Workforce Compendium. [American Organization for Nursing Leadership].
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