The Perfect Storm
by, 03-30-2010 at 05:29 PM (3769 Views)
When people ask me what’s on my mind about nursing these days, my thoughts invariably turn to new graduates and the challenging job market they are facing.
The story of Susan is a good example. Susan had a 10-year career as a teacher but always wanted to be a nurse, so when she was getting ready to re-enter the job market after her children started school, she went back to school to realize her lifelong dream. To finance her education, she used all her savings, took out student loans and generally scrimped along believing a well-paying nursing job would be waiting for her at the completion of her studies. In fact, when she graduated in December 2009, nothing was further from the truth, and she found herself searching far and wide for those coveted new graduate positions.
It was not unusual for Susan to find herself competing with hundreds of other new graduates for a small number of positions. To date, Susan still has not found a position in nursing — and, of course, a new class of new graduate nurses is about to emerge from our nursing schools which will make her search even more complicated.
I worry about losing the “Susans” of the nursing world to the profession entirely. History is showing us that if a new graduate nurse does not find a job in nursing within one year of graduation, they likely will leave the profession and not return in the future. Last year maybe that wasn’t a problem, but I know for certain it will be a problem in the future, because as soon as the general recession fades, the nursing shortage will return.
Nursing economist Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, has demonstrated credible patterns that show nursing employment rises with general unemployment and vice versa. As general unemployment increases, nurses delay retirements, increase their hours and return to hospital settings. The result is a significant lessening of the nursing shortage. Now that the shortage has gone away, hospitals and foundations are beginning to withdraw the money with which they were supporting expanded nursing programs. The result will be fewer nursing graduates in the near future.
It could be a perfect storm — as the recession recedes, working nurses will retire, return to part-time status, etc. Positions will open up, but there will be fewer new graduate nurses to be hired into those positions because schools cut back their enrollments. It’s a familiar story in nursing education and employment patterns; however, we have an opportunity to react differently this time, and there are some glimmers of hope with new graduate transition demonstration programs and options opening up outside acute care settings. This is truly a time for us to continue to be creative, for nursing schools and employers to work together finding new avenues of retaining new graduates in the profession — because we are going to need them.