With 2,300 openings, Lifespan turns to employees for help with recruitment

ROMELL TAYLOR, a registered nurse who has worked at The Miriam Hospital for nearly 24 years, is featured in a new video advertising employment at Lifespan Corp. as the company seeks to fill 2,300 open positions. / COURTESY LIFESPAN CORP.
ROMELL TAYLOR, a registered nurse who has worked at The Miriam Hospital for nearly 24 years, is featured in a new video advertising employment at Lifespan Corp. as the company seeks to fill 2,300 open positions. / COURTESY LIFESPAN CORP.

PROVIDENCE – A 30-second video shows registered nurse Romell Taylor as she walks the halls of the medical surgery oncology unit at The Miriam Hospital, before interacting with patients and looking into the camera with a smile, telling her story of working at the hospital for almost 24 years.

“We just want nurses out there to know it’s a nice place to work,” Taylor says in the advertisement. “We have a lot of support. If they want to join, we are here to help them navigate that.”

At one point during the commercial, a title screen states the following: “This is not a Lifespan ad. This is a Romell ad.”

Now facing three times the amount of job openings that the company normally contends with, following two years of a brutal COVID-19 pandemic that has led to unprecedented worker burnout and turnover, Lifespan Corp. is turning to its employees to offer a personal touch as part of a new recruitment outreach effort.

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The new ad campaign, which includes videos, audio clips and images for online, TV, print and radio, involves 27 Lifespan employees who share their stories of how working for the company has been rewarding for them and why others should consider joining them.

There are currently 2,300 job openings throughout Lifespan’s medical facilities, which include The Miriam Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital, Newport Hospital and many others, when typically there would be 800, said Lisa Abbott, the company’s senior vice president for human resources and community affairs. Abbott says the ad campaign aims to help fill those positions by appealing to a desire for meaning in one’s career, trying to get unemployed health care workers off the sidelines and to lure employees from other fields, including the hospitality industry.

“I think people need to be reminded that health care creates an inherent purpose greater than one’s self,” Abbott said. “It’s an incredibly noble profession. … Do I want to go work at Starbucks serving coffee? That’s an OK job. But do I want to help contribute to the greater good of society? Who better to tell the story about the nobility of this career than the workers themselves?”

Lifespan declined to share the cost of the ad campaign but said it was not an addition to its normal marketing budget.

Abbott said “burnout was a big influencing factor” for many staff to leave the hospital system during the pandemic, while more lucrative opportunities were available, including high-paying traveling nursing jobs that allowed workers to relocate to sunnier climes. The whole pandemic also accelerated retirements that were on the horizon for longtime employees, she said.

“People have said, ‘I can go make a bunch of money and go work somewhere nice and warm with my friends,’ understandably,” Abbott said. “I wish I was a nurse and could do that. … It’s been really hard. I’m an optimist. I like to say spring has sprung. … I think people who have left Rhode Island to be a nurse in Hawaii or southern California are ready to come back to Rhode Island, and we’re ready to welcome them back.”

Taylor, a registered nurse and mother of three who came from Liberia to Rhode Island in 1988 and now lives in Pawtucket, says working throughout the pandemic has been “stressful,” as she’s been required to manage more patients than usual and the wait times have been longer. But she said the support she’s received from her superiors, and the family atmosphere among her fellow employees, has helped her navigate the COVID-19 crisis successfully. That’s why Taylor, who works the night shift with five nurses and three certified nursing assistants caring for 25 patients in her unit, says she’s confident in encouraging others to join the team. 

“I wouldn’t be around if this wasn’t a great place to work. They can join the team and see what it’s like. I bet they’ll like it,” said Taylor, who serves as the assistant to the supervisor of her unit, determining nurse assignments and coordinating patient transfers as part of her duties. “It’s very comforting to know you’re taking care of sick people who appreciate it, and you have a hospital that supports you doing that. I love The Miriam. It’s a smaller hospital. It’s like family to me. This is where my parents came when they had medical problems. And this is where I want to come if I happen to get sick.”

While Lifespan is moving forward with this recruitment campaign in the wake of pandemic-era resignations, its smaller counterpart, Care New England Health System, is trying to fill 983 positions at its facilities, including Women & Infants Hospital, Butler Hospital, Kent County Memorial Hospital and others.

Steve Parrillo, director of talent acquisition at Care New England, says the company is expanding its print media to regional and national industry sites for select roles, while continuing to hold staffing activities, including meet-and-greet dinners, virtual career fairs, college career days, industry conferences and on-site “Meet The Team” events. Parrillo said Care New England is also trying to generate talent leads via direct outreach through social media, including LinkedIn networking.

Back at Lifespan, Abbott says the No. 1 need for new employees is nurses and nursing assistants. She said that in addition to the personal appeal Lifespan is making through the staff-centric ad campaign, potential recruits are being informed about benefits, including a student debt forgiveness program and training for job candidates who don’t have experience in the medical field.

“We have so many pathway programs,” Abbott said. “We absorb the cost. We put the individuals through the training programs. We’re trying now to reach out to nontraditional places, not just the nursing schools. We’re diving into hospitality because you have to have somewhat of a personality to get into the service industry. It’s a great place to source for talent.”

Taylor said Lifepsan helped her complete her education, after she came to the company with an associate degree.

“It was through The Miriam Hospital I got my bachelor’s degree,” Taylor said. “They paid my school fee and worked around my schedule to make sure I was off the night I went to class. Whenever I had [a] family problem, I could speak to my manager. She’s very considerate. Everyone is just very helpful.”

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.

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