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Some Nurses Facing Weaker Job Market

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

June 8, 2009

Despite widespread reports of a nursing shortage, many new nursing graduates are having a difficult time finding work.

The Philadelphia Inquirer [from an article originally located at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20090602_Recession_is_making_nursing_shortage_worse.html] reports that a number of factors related to the recession have made it appear as if the nursing shortage has slowed: Facing tight budgets, many patients are opting to put off elective surgery. Consequently, some hospitals are being forced to lay off workers or close their doors, thereby eliminating nursing jobs. At the same time, many older nurses are postponing retirement or returning to work because their spouses have become unemployed or their savings have become depleted.

As a result, new nurses are facing a much tougher job market than they ever anticipated. Lauren Smith, who graduated from Maryland's Towson University in May, told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail that hardly any nursing positions are open in the state, and most require a year or two of experience.

"I thought I'd be picking where I wanted to work and what floor I wanted to work," she said. "But it's not that way."

Smith began looking for work in February, and landed only one interview which didn't result in a job. For the time being, she is maintaining her part-time job as a pharmacy technician--a position she has held since high school. But she is frustrated that she cannot find a job in nursing.

Nursing "is kind of in me," she explained. "I've always wanted to help people."

Even in Texas, where the economy is better than in other parts of the country, nursing graduates are finding it harder to receive first-choice assignments, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram [from an article originally located at http://www.star-telegram.com/business/story/1418063.html]. Yet nursing educators are advising graduates to stay the course.

"In nursing, you're going to have a job," noted Kathy Boswell, dean of nursing and health and human sciences at Weatherford College. "You may not be in a hospital. Not everybody's going to get a job in NICU [neonatal intensive care units]. But they are getting jobs."

Indeed, demand for nurses in the state remains strong: According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, the number of hospital vacancies for registered nurses climbed to 11.2 percent this year, compared to 8.4 percent in 2004. And Kirk King, president of Texas Health Arlington hospital and board chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, told the Star-Telegram that hospitals are continuing to hire new graduates in order to cut back on overtime and nurses hired through expensive agencies.

Nevertheless, other areas of the country are not faring as well, and experts are warning that what appears to be a reprieve from the nursing shortage is actually exacerbating the situation in the long run.

"The recession is creating the false impression that the shortage is over, generating complacency in the health-care industry and prompting aspiring nurses to think twice before enrolling in nursing schools," notes the Inquirer. But, says the article, "The shortage is real."

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