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The accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program has already awarded 30 scholarships to nursing students who have committed to joining Moffitt upon graduation.

For registered nurses Weaver Jones and Karlissa Harris, their typical day no longer includes administering medications or monitoring vital signs. Instead, they play a different fundamental role at Moffitt Cancer Center: recruiting talented nurses to join the team.

Over the past several years, Moffitt and health care systems across the country have been grappling with an ever-growing shortage of nurses — a trend that was exacerbated by the pandemic. The demand for nurses, especially as the baby boomer generation ages, continues to outpace the supply of nursing professionals entering or staying in the field. In Florida alone, the Florida Hospital Association projects a deficit of nearly 60,000 nurses by 2035 if nothing is done to address the shortage.

At Moffitt, these outside pressures are further amplified by the cancer center’s rapid growth and the need to staff new ambulatory care centers and Moffitt McKinley Hospital, which is set to open in July. So, what can Moffitt do to attract and retain the nurses needed to help patients impacted by cancer? 

Jones, who is supervisor of Talent Acquisition for nursing, says he has seen a lot of change in his more than 20-year nursing career and in the six years since joining Moffitt’s Talent Acquisition team.

“Upholding the highest nursing standards is critical for maintaining our prestigious Magnet designation,” Jones said. “But we’ve also been able to be more open to a range of nursing experiences and education levels when hiring and have expanded our hiring of new graduate nurses.”

Thinking Outside the Box

In an effort spearheaded by the Nursing Professional Development team, Moffitt has begun partnering with local nursing schools to strengthen the pipeline of new recruits. In collaboration with JoEllen Warnke, manager of the Nursing Professional Development team, recruiters such as Harris, senior talent advisor for nursing, have supported the launch of the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program with the University of South Florida and Nova Southeastern University. The program has already awarded 30 scholarships to nursing students who have committed to working at Moffitt once they graduate.

“We really needed to think outside the box and make our recruitment programs with local universities as robust as possible,” Harris said.

Although Moffitt has participated in student job fairs in the past, the accelerated BSN has broadened the horizons for how the center connects with potential candidates. Warnke points out that the program is completely organic to Moffitt and has been embraced by nursing schools and candidates alike.

“Many of the candidates do not have access to traditional financial support because, being an accelerated program, this is their second bachelor’s degree,” Harris explained. “The scholarship allows them to focus on their schooling while preparing for a career at Moffitt.”

Widening the Nursing Pipeline

The Nursing Professional Development team has launched two other programs in the past year to improve the nursing pipeline: a preceptor-to-hire program and an externship for oncology techs. For the preceptor-to-hire program, Moffitt is recruiting senior nursing students for resident positions during their preceptorship. In the fall, Moffitt had 10 seniors in the program, along with 21 undergraduates in clinical rotations. The externship helps to fill oncology tech positions while providing the extern an opportunity to work with nurses and gain more exposure to the profession.  

Moffitt team members attend a nurse recruiting event at Keiser University.

From left, Raygina Tolbert Scott, Karlissa Harris, Rosemary Taylor and Elizabeth Greenhalgh attend a career fair at Keiser University to help recruit nurses to Moffitt.

Weaver and Harris agree that the work they do as recruiters is both challenging and rewarding. While the current landscape may have its share of obstacles, the recruiters remain encouraged by the talented number of candidates Moffitt continues to see. The dedication, ingenuity and expertise of team members from Nursing Professional Development and Talent Acquisition have kept the momentum moving forward in closing the shortage gap.

For Harris, being a listening ear and advisor for nursing recruits is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. She says being a nurse allows her to share her own experiences and place candidates in positions that match their skills and expertise.

“Listening to them express their excitement of being selected as a candidate is amazing,” Harris added. “So many consider Moffitt a top choice.”