Secrets from a Nurse Recruiter
Looking for a job in nursing? Meet Linda Zaneski, nurse recruiter for the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Zaneski, MS, RN, is a Wilkes alumnus who bubbles with enthusiasm in her role of finding and enticing the right nurses to the hospital. Before this role, Zaneski was a deputy nurse executive for the VA. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing and master’s degree in health care administration from Wilkes University and is certified as a gerontology nurse.
The VA Health System is the largest employer of nurses in the United States with more than 85,000 nurses currently employed nationwide. Turnover at the VA is low, but there are still many openings based on the sheer volume of requisitions combined with a steady stream of retiring nurses.
What a nurse recruiter does
In order to find the right nurse for an opening at the VA, Zaneski is continually in motion, meeting people at job fairs and other recruiting events. Many times, she encounters someone with impressive credentials but she may not have an opening at the time. As a result, she will file away that information for the future when a suitable position does open.
When recruiting for RNs or LPNs, Zaneski says she looks for nurses who have had previous experience in a particular department or specialty. With a nursing assistant position, it’s less clear-cut. After determining that the nursing assistant candidate has a firm grasp on the basics, then it’s more about the candidate’s personality and potential “fit” with the nurse manager. “I usually get a good feel for people when I talk to them on the phone or in person,” she says.
Zaneski not only brings new nurses onboard but also helps to make sure they stay there. Retention is a priority at the VA, and the organization spends a considerable amount of time and money orienting nurses. Zaneski is in her fourth year with the VA’s mentoring program. “I love mentoring new nurses when they start,” she says. “I try to reinforce the fact that they will learn things and that they will get more comfortable.”
Career advice for nurses
Being a nurse recruiter gives Zaneski an opportunity to see the hiring process from the other side of the desk, and she has some words of wisdom for nurses looking for work.
- The resume: She emphasizes adding relevant details to your positions so a recruiter can easily determine what type of experience you have. For example, an LPN as a job description doesn’t say as much as an LPN on the telemetry floor working in cardiac care. “If I can’t see that they have specific experience in an area, I won’t consider them for a position,” Zaneski says.
- Provide stories as examples: She also encourages nurses to do their homework before an interview. Besides reflecting on skills and accomplishments, think about the stories that illustrate these points. “So if they ask you about dealing with a difficult patient, share an example and tell what you did to help lead to a positive outcome,” she says.“Examples provide concrete evidence that you have in fact experienced or have completed this task.”
- Get more education: Her most salient piece of advice is to go back to school in order to get ahead. Many experienced nurses at the VA hit a ceiling with their salaries and find that going back to school is the only way to increase their pay level. A nurse’s salary at the VA is based on years of experience and education, Zaneski explains. Consequently, a nurse with 20 years’ of experience and a nursing diploma earns less than a nurse with only five years’ of experience and a master’s degree.
Why nurses should go back to school
A few months ago, Zaneski held an education fair at the VA to provide information and dispel any fears nurses might have about returning to school. “Many of the nurses were afraid to go back to school — afraid of how much time and money it would take,” she says. “But once they learned more information, their fears subsided.”
Six nurses enrolled in college as a result of the fair.
“Nurses shouldn’t discount the fact that they can go back to school,” she says, adding that there are many options to make it work. Universities offer online classes and part-time programs to fit with nurses’ schedules, and hospitals offer tuition reimbursement.
Zaneski herself is thinking about returning to school to get her master’s degree in nursing from Wilkes in order to prepare for a doctorate degree.
“I highly encourage nurses who are thinking about going back to school, to do so,” Zaneski says. “It’s worth it.”