How to Find Great DON Candidates

When I started here eight years ago, we were able to find a qualified director of nursing candidates within 72 hours, generally, but times have changed. In January of 2017 alone, there were 7,500 postings for director of nursing candidates and only 1,200 active candidates, which shows the scarcity of these candidates out there. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago were hit the hardest.

So how can you combat this? There are a couple things you can do.

The first is to develop your bench strength. Look at your RNs, your MDS coordinators, your ADONs, and really put in the time and energy to mold them into someone who can step into that director of nursing role if needed. Generally speaking, the best hires you can make are people who know the organization, the culture, the leadership, and the vision of the company.

Secondly, when you conduct interviews, interview for potential rather than just experience. I think the days of interviewing a director of nursing with 25 years of experience are coming to a close. Look at a candidate’s potential—can they step into that role two or three positions into their career? Do they have the potential to be molded and trained to be a director of nursing?

“Interview for potential rather than just experience.”

Finally, make sure that your director of nursing is engaged. As a search firm, the number one reason we hear candidates want to leave is that they’re not being supported by the subordinates that report to them, the leadership, or both. Make sure you touch base with that director of nursing periodically and that they’re engaged and happy in the role. We all know that the relationship between an administrator and director of nursing is vital, so they need to make sure they feel supported and have everything they need to feel supported.

If you have a vacancy, there a couple things you can do.

For one, you can engage the staff you already have. Ask anybody in a clinical role who they’ve worked with in the past and respect who would be a great director of nursing. Some of the best referrals you can get come from employees you already have in the building. If you have exhausted all your resources, I really recommend engaging a search firm for the position. If you have 7,500 postings out there and only 1,200 active candidates, finding that needle in a haystack can be difficult.

If you have any other questions about this topic, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I’d be glad to help!