West Virginia United (WVU) Health System has gone the extra mile to recruit nurses at its Heart and Vascular Institute. Before the institute opened last year, WVU was daunted by the challenge to recruit 200 nurses. The health system had offered flex scheduling, signing bonuses and other incentives, but still fell short of its goal amid the nation’s nursing shortage according to Hospitals & Health Networks.

That’s when the health system turned to free lodging, which struck a chord with the nursing community. One floor and 44 rooms in a nearby West Virginia University dormitory were set aside for nurses who had to travel at least 60 miles, or 90 minutes, to Morgantown.

“We were putting the steel and the bricks out for our new [institute] tower, and it became clear that we needed to get some nurses in here if we were going to open on time,” says WVU Medicine-WVU Hospitals Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer Doug Mitchell. “Our goal was to attract nurses who may not have been able, or ready, to uproot and move to Morgantown.”

Operating out of a dorm used by graduate students, the Nursing Commuter Program enabled the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute to launch on schedule. Commuting nurses live in two- and four-bedroom suites that have common areas. Housekeeping duties are handled by West Virginia United Health System.

Overall, the health system the program has saved it roughly $350,000 that would have gone to travel expenses for nurses on 12- and 13-week contracts.