Employers want experienced nurses.
Since the recession, health care has been the single biggest sector for job growth, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get hired.
Registered nurses fresh out of school are coming across thousands of job postings with an impossible requirement: “no new grads.”
A survey by the National Student Nurse’s Association showed 36% of newly licensed RNs graduating in 2011 were not working as registered nurses four months after graduation.
Blame the recession that has caused experienced nurses to hold on to their jobs, “clogging the market” and making it harder for new graduates.
The recession is to blame, says Peter Buerhaus, a registered nurse and economist who teaches at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. In a paper he co-authored in theNew England Journal of Medicine last year, he shows an interesting phenomenon happens in the demographics of the nursing workforce when the economy is weak.
About 90% of nurses are women, 60% are married, and roughly a quarter are over 50 years old. It’s typical for many nurses to take time off to raise children in their 30s, and given the long days spent working on their feet, many often retire in their late 50s.
Prior to the recession, about 73,000 nurses left the profession each year due to childbearing, retirement, burning out or death.
But when the recession hit, spouses lost jobs, 401(k)s lost money, and facing financial uncertainty, fewer nurses chose to leave work, Buerhaus said.
“Many of those nurses are still in the workforce, and they’re not leaving because we don’t see a convincing jobs recovery yet,” Buerhaus said. “They’re clogging the market and making it harder for these new RNs to get a job.”
Enrollment in nursing programs has doubled over ten years.
At the same time, enrollment in nursing colleges has exploded in recent years. In the 2010-2011 school year, 169,000 people were enrolled in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs. That’s more than double the 78,000 students from a decade earlier, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
There just aren’t enough jobs to go around for all these new grads.
Over the long term, nursing jobs are expected to be plentiful, but many of the jobs will continue to be located outside of hospitals. So the new graduate today may have to build her experience by working in home health care, PRN assignments, nursing homes, or rural area hospitals, even if those are not her first choices. Later on with more experience under her belt she will have more options to choose a more desirable job.