Everything in the job market today seems to be riding on a constant seesaw. A little teeter here, a little totter there-the ups and downs are inevitable. For a time, nurses were riding the perpetual teeter, laughing and enjoying hospital’s great need for them in recent years. However, it seems that for nurses the seesaw jig is up and they are left falling face first into the fresh, crisp grass below them. Ouch.
Let’s explain. According to reports, new nurses entering into the field are having an increasingly difficult time finding work. This may come as a surprise to many because the past couple years has seen a great need for nurses in the healthcare industry and it seemed healthcare was recession-proof. A study by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2009 predicted that by 2025 there would be shortage of 260,000 registered nurses. That caught the attention of many people and pushed them towards going to school to be a registered nurse in the belief that, once they graduated, they would be almost guaranteed a job. Apparently, that is not the case. In the Lo Hud, recent graduate Matthew Jaen talks about how he has yet to find a full-time job in nursing.
Graduating near the top of the class, he thought “it would be fairly easy to get a job,” said 30-year-old Jaen, who graduated in May from the Cochran School of Nursing at St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers. “There is a need, but hospitals aren’t willing to hire.” He has been looking for work since February and in the interim has a part-time job with a health-care agency. There he takes care of 3-year-old boy with a respiratory condition and most of what he makes goes toward helping his grandmother. Even though he has no health insurance, no paid vacation and isn’t working full-time, he says in the article that he is happy to have at least found a part-time job.
That doesn’t quite sound like the scenario thousands of nursing students hoped for once they graduated. According to Kevin Dahill, the president of Northern Metropolitan Hospital Association, hospitals were hiring and recruiting nurses four or five years ago. With the weak economy, all that has changed and he doesn’t believe that hospitals will be quick to hire anymore nurses until the economy improves. “Right now, it’s the lowest turnover and vacancy rate we’ve seen in a long time. For entry level, it’s almost at zero,” he said in Lo Hud. All you have to do is look at the statistics to see how the seesaw has tottered.
In 2007, 95 percent of directors in nursing programs reported that there were “many jobs” for their new graduates. Fast forward to 2010 and only 25 percent of those directors said the same thing. That’s definitely a face-down tumble in the grass if I’ve ever seen one. So why such a big sway in the seesaw for nurses? Well, it’s no secret that our economy is a bit weak and that it has effected nearly every industry- some more than others- and healthcare is not immune to the disease. On top of that, the Affordable Care Act pushes an emphasis on preventative care which reduces the use of hospitals. Jean Moore, the director of a workforce center believes that means a decrease in demand for nurses in hospitals. “We know a lot of nurse jobs are in hospitals, and we might see a decline in demand for nurses if a new, refocused system is successful,” she said. “If we do a better job of keeping people with chronic disease healthy, we can avert (hospital) admissions.”
However daunting this news may be to some though, others say that it is just the way the healthcare industry operates. The industry, much like any other, has seen its ups and downs over the years and will recover eventually. Karen Davenport, dean of academic programs at the Cochran school thinks that it will turn around and notes that she has seen this happen many times before already. “I think it’s going to turn around. I have been nursing for a very, very long time, and I have seen the same thing happen three or four times in my career. I think that health care will look somewhat different, but the bottom line is nurses are always going to be necessary.”
So what is a nursing student or recent graduate to do? It seems the only option they have is to do the same thing everyone else has to do in this mess: stay focused, stay positive and continue their job search. You can’t roll around in the grass forever. Eventually, the right choices and forces will push you right back up on that seesaw so you can teeter totter until your heart is content. As for hopefuls entering into the nursing industry, the only advice that can be given is that it should be out of love for the job and not because you believed it to be a recession-proof profession. “You have to love the profession to stay in it. I love nursing; I love taking care of people,” said Jaen. “It’s what I want to do, so I’m sticking with it.”