Job Search: Breaking Through at a Large Hospital System

Tips for Nurse Practitioners

I recently spoke with a friend who is a highly specialized nurse practitioner (electrophysiology). She has about ten years of experience and would be a great catch for any cardiology group. When she moved to a new city this past year, however, she encountered significant hurdles landing a job. The city where she lives is dominated by large hospitals and even though she applied for job postings online, she seemed to get nowhere in the bureaucratic hiring processes of these institutions. 

I’ve talked with a number of nurse practitioners who have experienced similar frustrations. Applying for jobs online and sending your resume into the abyss rarely seems to be productive. Not to mention, the hiring process at large institutions can be quite lengthy. So, what’s a nurse practitioner to do to get noticed at a large healthcare institution?

1. Find a personal connection 

My specialist NP friend was unsuccessful in contacting hospital HR and applying to job postings on the hospital website. So, she reached out to individuals she personally knew who worked at the facility in other deprtments. Eventually, through these connections she was directed to one of the cardiologists who was hiring for the job. While hospital protocol required that she was officially hired through HR, this physician was able to recommend her for the position and pressure HR to get the hiring process moving. Having a personal connection (here’s how to get one) is incredibly helpful if you’re a nurse practitioner trying to navigate the bureaucracy and get noticed with a large employer. 

What if you can’t break through with a personal connection (for example if you live out of state)? At least try to get connected with an actual human being. You might find the email address for the HR staff member responsible for hiring NPs and PAs, for example, and reach out with a written note to supplement your online app. 

2. Know who’s actually doing the hiring

Some hospitals and other healthcare facilities don’t hire nurse practitioners, physician assistants or even physicians directly. To make matters muddier, this can even vary from department to department within the same institution. Rather, these institutions may outsource provider staffing to another company ranging from a national corporation to a small medical group. For example, I am an emergency nurse practitioner and work in a medium-sized hospital. While I see patients at this hospital, my employer is not the hospital itself but a large national corporation that staffs emergency departments. Searching the hospital’s online job board for an open position would not have done me any good because the hospital itself doesn’t do the hiring for the providers in the ED. Get some insight into who your employer will actually be within a particular department at the hospitals you’re interested in. This way you know who to target in your job search. 

3. Go through the designated process

Even if you have a totally clutch personal contact at your hospital of interest, a large healthcare institution is going to have a strict job application, interview and hiring protocol. Be patient as jumping through these hoops is required. Complete online applications thoroughly and with close attention to quality as HR receives numerous applications for a single position at large institutions. Skipping over sections of online job applications is tempting as they can seem redundant, but cutting corners could cost you an interview even if you think you have an inside connection. 

4. Be persistent

Large hospital systems are hiring for, well, a large number of positions. So, persistence may be in order to get answers to your questions and to keep the process moving. Check in weekly on the progress of your application and interview, unless another appropriate timeframe for following up or when you can expect to hear back is shared. Even once she was officially hired, my electrophysiology nurse practitioner friend expressed that HR had significant delays in getting back to her about dates for training, onboarding paperwork and putting an actual start date on the calendar. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease…just don’t be too squeaky. Polite but persistent is a good measure for follow-up protocol. 



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