Nursing Grads Face Hiring Obstacles

March 22, 2010

frustrated nurseThe economic downturn has altered the job outlook for the once recession-proof field of nursing: Newly graduated nurses are now having more trouble securing employment, while veteran nurses are coming out of retirement to return to work.

"We are seeing nurses who have retired and now, because of the economy, are having to return to the profession," explained Melinda Rush, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Nursing, whose e-mail was quoted in The Clarion Ledger. "These nurses are in their 60s or 70s but have not been out more than five years that I know of."

In addition, many hospitals and healthcare facilities--which are seeing reduced revenue because of the recession--are now unable to afford the time or costs of helping new nurses finish their training. Anita Pavlidis, a registered nurse and head of the nursing department at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, told the Nashua Telegraph that the hiring crunch is being directly caused by financial and lifestyle changes along with slashed reimbursement rates to healthcare facilities.

As a result, she told the Telegraph, "not only are hospitals not filling vacant positions, those already working in part-time or per diem positions have floated up to working more hours. The normal attrition has not happened."

New nursing graduates are becoming increasingly frustrated with their job hunts. For example, Vicki Phangrath, 24, recently earned her nursing degree from Fresno State but still has no job. She told The Fresno Bee that she has applied to over 20 hospitals since October. "I've been applying all over California," she said.

The Fresno Bee reports that according to Stephanie Robinson, director of nursing at Fresno City College, 70 percent of recent graduates have been hired, compared to 95 percent two years ago. At the College of the Sequoias, only 50 percent of the class has been offered jobs, and not all of them are full-time.

Beth Hale Campoli, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing executive at Eliot Hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, told the Telegraph that she has budgeted for hiring half as many new nurses in the past year than she did in 2008.

"When the economy fell a year ago, we didn't see the level of retirement we typically see--a spouse might have lost their job or lost benefits," she explained. "Those are the positions that normally open up."

But she predicted that the nursing shortage will hit hard in a number of years, when the economy rebounds and more experienced nurses retire. "How will we transition our new nurses without the more experienced ones?" she asked in the Telegraph. "I need my wisdom workers to mentor new nurses."

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman

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