No, I’m Not a Nurse

Since I speak often at national nursing conferences and advise senior management on issues regarding healthcare staffing and nursing specifically, I am often mistaken for being a Registered Nurse. I haven’t figured out whether the confusion starts because I fit the demographic of a RN—older, Caucasian and female—or if it is assumed recruiting and retaining nurses is so different from every other job group that only a RN could do the job.

Most of the time I react in horror at the thought of being asked to care for vent patients or making sure medication dosages are correct. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pass the course work even though I am educated and reasonably bright. I’m not a health scientist, but then normally a RN is not a human resource or communications specialist.

It is the notion that there isn’t a great deal of professionalism required to manage human capital (which now accounts for about 60% of the overall budget of a healthcare delivery system) which makes me cringe. Can it be something one just picks up after having been educated to provide direct patient care? Or are we doing a disservice to nurses in general to say they don’t deserve a true HR professional looking out for their employment needs?

I have known many successful RNs who have been able to grasp the complexities of human resources and communications and do an outstanding job recruiting and providing retention programs, but more times than not the idea that you “have to be a nurse” has allowed the HR profession in healthcare not to progress.

When the distinction of what is really needed isn’t made, we often find the Human Resource Division is nothing more than a big Post Office; taking applications from walk-ins, the web site and employee referrals, sorting them into piles and passing them on to the appropriate hiring manager.

No need for selling, managing the process, screening and hiring candidates who are a “right fit”, laying the groundwork for retention or jumping out in front of the competition hiring the best. And once the hiring manager has made a decision, the Post Office gears up, pushing paper work through to secure name badges, orientation dates and payroll forms.

It is important to note that the hiring manger is rarely a HR professional so the hire is made, but does the new employee feel lucky, committed, engaged? There is a very important role for a nurse manager in the hiring process, but it is to access the clinical skills of the candidate and the fit on a particular unit, not to be the one driving the entire process.

A BSN is not appropriate to understand the ramifications of a well-run Human Resources Department. If it covers 60% of the budget, then it needs appropriate training and professionalism because it includes financial ramifications, representing all employees at the senior management table, career development opportunities, succession planning and retention programs.

So, no I’m not a nurse and it’s a good thing too. Because I am good at what I do, I can provide a clear voice communicating the needs of employees, what programs provide a practice environment where employees are engaged and performing what they are trained to do—and how to justify financing the programs to benefit the RN population as a whole. It’s not the uniqueness of the nurse practice, but rather the unique needs in terms of the employment experience which needs understanding. Every employee deserves that.

If you have a healthcare recruiting related question you’d like me to answer on a future blog send me an email at

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Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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