Cautious outlook for nursing jobs

by Grace

In recent years nursing has been considered a safe career choice, with the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicting that employment of registered nurses will jump 26 percent from 2010 to 2020″.  But a closer look might make prospective nurses less optimistic about a rosy job scenario.

Thirty-six percent of nursing graduates in the class of 2011 had not secured positions as registered nurses (RNs) as of last fall, according to a survey conducted by the National Student Nurses’ Association in September. Respondents claimed that employers are seeking more experienced RNs, older nurses are slowing turnover by taking longer to retire, and new graduates are inundating the market.

Nurses graduating with bachelor’s degrees and diplomas fared slightly better in finding jobs.

Locally, recent layoffs at several hospitals have included nursing staff.  Earlier this month about 80 layoffs affected physicians, nurses, managers and support staff at Mount Vernon Hospital and Sound Shore Medical Center.  The reasons cited for the cuts were changes in the health care environment, particularly in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, along with providing more than $30 million in uncompensated care to under- and uninsured in our service area.”  Meanwhile, within the last year nearly 700 employees at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla have lost their jobs.

The growth in outpatient care has affected the need for nurses in hospitals, but suggests that different types of employment opportunities may expand.

… Outpatient care and other less traditional settings, on the other hand, have a need for nurses with innovation, creativity and command of their field.

It’s possible that nurses in these settings may find more difficult working conditions.

My advice to a young person considering nursing as a career:

  • Don’t assume that optimistic job growth predictions will pan out as projected.
  • Get a bachelor’s degree or a diploma*.
  • Investigate the many types of jobs that nurses are doing, both in traditional and non-traditional settings.

* Diploma programs are the oldest and most traditional type of nursing education in the United States. These programs are two to three years in duration and provide nursing education primarily in the hospital setting. Graduates of these programs receive a diploma as opposed to a college degree. Most diploma programs are now affiliated with colleges or universities that grant college credit for certain courses. 

Last year I spoke with a student of a diploma program associated with a highly regarded New Jersey hospital.  She was extremely gratified that she had been offered a job by that hospital, which apparently does not automatically happen in every case.



10 Responses to “Cautious outlook for nursing jobs”

  1. Maybe career changers should stick to the Associate Degree route, while recent high school grads should try to go for a BA?


  2. I think career changers should go for a BA too, if they can afford it. If the cost difference between the two options is not great (if I already had a bachelor’s), I would definitely go for the BA.


  3. “I think career changers should go for a BA too, if they can afford it.”

    But if it’s a late-40s, early-50s career changer? Just being older when you hit the job market might be as much of a disadvantage as not having the BA.


  4. This is a very tough thing to figure, since the salaries differ and the hiring climate may be either better or worse after those extra 2 years of study.

    Another consideration is that nursing has very high rates of workplace injury, which can limit the number of years of employment one can get out of a nursing education.

    “Low back injuries are the leading occupational health problem affecting healthcare workers and are increasing among nurses and nurses’ assistants. Hospitals and nursing homes are the top two workplaces for days away from work due to back injuries.”

    “The NIOSH lifting equation indicates that the average worker can routinely lift no more than 51 pounds. Healthcare workers are routinely asked to lift beyond safe loads without adequate staffing support and lack access to lifting devices.”

    And patients are only getting bigger. Technology should be able to help with this eventually–we need a gentle people-moving forklift.


  5. I had no idea about the high rates in workplace injuries for nurses, although it does make sense. Given that fact, I’m not sure if I would go for a career change to nursing if I were 45-50ish. Obviously it would depend what other options I had.


  6. Yeah. Think of the biggest person you’ve seen this week, and then imagine helping them to the restroom after surgery.


  7. Dr. Helen M. Carter in MA is refusing to treat overweight patients.

    Carter told NewsCenter 5 it’s a matter of “self preservation for herself and her employees.”

    “After three consecutive injuries (with other patients) trying to care for people over 250 pounds, my office is unable to accommodate a certain weight and we put a limit on it,” Carter said.

    The policy may be unusual, but it is not illegal.

    Read more:


  8. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s time for special fat-only or big-only clinics that use the sort of veterinary equipment that you need for bigger animals (like in a dairy practice).

    (I say this as a big girl myself who doesn’t want to injure any nurses.)


  9. Individual institutions also have policy manuals that describe the scope of practice for the different types of medical and nursing
    professionals that work there, which may be more restrictive than those of the state.
    A certified nursing assistant works under the guidance of a registered nurse and is usually
    responsible for taking care of patient’s daily activities such as, helping them with their bath, taking their vital stats, assisting them with their medication, helping them in grooming activities, feeding them, etc. Telehealth is a work at home job that suits nurses with a lot of experience in acute care.



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