In Case You Missed It: Recruiter Overload: VA Hospital and Ensign Hospital

Episode 44 of The College Handoff, titled “Recruiter Overload: VA Hospital and Ensign Hospital,” features Amber Brennan, a nurse recruiter for the Veterans Health Administration in Salt Lake City, and Hadlee Rose, director of recruiting and retention at Ensign Services, an organization that specializes in post-acute care.

As one of the largest healthcare organizations in the United States, working for the Veterans Health Administration comes with several benefits. “I think one of the greatest things is serving our veterans. They’re a great population to work for. They’re actually very different and unique in a lot of ways, especially when we go into mental health aspects of things that our soldiers and veterans have had to go through for us,” Amber says. “Everything our veterans have done has been for the greater good of our nation, so it is an honor to serve these people as well as a lot of the federal benefits are very enticing. I would say the VA does a lot to try and prevent burnout, which can be a huge problem in clinical nursing. Nurses get five weeks of vacation right off the bat at the VA, so you earn quite a significant amount of leaves, and you have a separate sick bank. All this is really to help prevent nursing burnout.”

Another benefit of working for a VA Hospital is the amount of resources and programs they have for students. “We’ve had student nurse technician positions for years… we can take a person who just got into nursing school and put them in a student nurse technician position and grow them up. Great program to get into while you’re in school. Often they only require you to work one shift a week. While you’re in school, we have a valor nursing program for students that have completed their junior year of nursing program. It’s meant to be a 400 hour over the summer intensive clinical, where you’re with a nurse getting to do things that you would do at your normal nursing clinicals, and we pay you to do that, so that’s a really great program,” Amber describes. “We have our post bachelor nurse residency for when nurses’ graduate and they finish their bachelor’s degree in nursing. This is an entry level program that rotates you through all different areas in the hospital to give you experience. It’s a great program, especially if you’re not 100% on where you want to land… And then for people eventually down the road, if you want to get an advanced degree and become a nurse practitioner, we have residency programs for people who have gone to school for those.”

During the interview, Amber admits the application and hiring process for the Veterans Hospital Administration is intense. However, she provides tips on how to make the process easier. “When you apply to government positions, it’s very different than private sector. We are very much not into the one page resume; we want all the information. In a normal government resume for people who’ve worked for the government for a while, you will see multi-page resumes, and they want really specific information about everything you’ve done, like listed out. When you’re applying for any sort of federal nursing position, I highly recommend a more detailed resume and don’t try to limit pages so that you can get the information in there. For people who have been nurses for a while, I’ve seen 30 page resumes and we read it all, so be highly specific about things you’ve done. Don’t try to limit yourself to one page when you’re trying to get into if you’re trying to get into a federal nursing position.”

In the second portion of the episode, Hadlee Rose talks about the unique mission and goals for Ensign Services. “It’s our mission to dignify long term care in the eyes of the world. And it’s not something we just say, but it’s something we absolutely believe and try to live out every single day. And we know that to be able to do that, it’s building leaders,” Hadlee explains. “I would say that we are a leadership company that happens to be in healthcare. So those individuals that are curious and want to learn and want to grow, they thrive in our organization, because we cultivate these facilities that they have that opportunity. Our leaders are looking to take the LPN who’s interested in getting their RN and helping them through that path… We have many different programs to help people with their nursing careers. And beyond that we have a lot of leadership opportunities. People always think of bedside care when they think about nursing, but there’s also leadership… So I think what really sets us apart is just being people oriented, and knowing that if we put our employees first and develop leaders, our residents and our patients will get the care that they need.”

Another large focus for Ensign Services is retaining nurses. “The way we do [retention] is definitely through leadership development, and ensuring that our nurses are taken care of, because nursing is probably the most giving industry there is… The sacrifices I think of that have been made during the year of COVID and 2020 and even now as it continues is really insane… It’s just a very giving industry,” Hadlee says. “And so to be able to have a company that has your back and is willing to sacrifice for you as well, that’s what we try to do. We create that safe place so that you can give your best care as a nurse… If we have a great place that we love to work and we feel like we’re taken care of by our leaders and our direct supervisors, we’re able to go home and kind of multiply the way that we interact with people outside of work as well.”

If you want to listen to Episode 44 of The College Handoff that features the full interviews and more insights into the hiring process for both the VA Hospital and Ensign Services as well as essential traits for nurses, go to or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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