Warm Southern Breeze

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Where the Jobs Are: Is the Nursing Job Market a mixed bag?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eminent nursing researcher & scholar Dr. Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN has made a career studying Nurses, and suggests that the jobs picture for new nurse grads is good, and that they may be facing one of the best job markets in decades.

A 2009 study he conducted found that, “Registered nurse (RN) employment has increased during the current recession, and we may soon see an end to the decade-long nurse shortage. This would give hospitals welcome relief and an opportunity to strengthen the nurse workforce by addressing issues associated with an increasingly older and foreign-born workforce. The recent increase in employment is also improving projections of the future supply of RNs, yet large shortages are still expected in the next decade. Until nursing education capacity is increased, future imbalances in the nurse labor market will be unavoidable.

A 2004 study of his said that, “Wage increases, relatively high national unemployment, and widespread private-sector initiatives aimed at increasing the number of people who become nurses has resulted in a second straight year of strong employment growth among registered nurses (RNs). In 2003, older women and, to a lesser extent, foreign-born RNs accounted for a large share of employment growth. We also observe unusually large employment growth from two new demographic groups: younger people, particularly women in their early thirties, and men. Yet, despite the increase in employment of nearly 185,000 hospital RNs since 2001, the evidence suggests that the current nurse shortage has not been eliminated.

Most recently, research he worked upon which was published in the December 2011 issue of Health Affairs found that “because of this surge in the number of young people entering nursing during the past decade, the nurse workforce is projected to grow faster during the next two decades than previously anticipated.”

In essence, “...the nurse workforce is now expected to grow at roughly the same rate as the population through 2030.”

They also cautioned however, “that the dynamics of the nursing workforce are more complex than sheer numbers.

Lead researcher and RAND health economist David Auerbach said, “Instead of worrying about a decline, we are now growing the supply of nurses.

Here’s something very interesting, however.

In that same issue of Health Affairs, a survey conducted by Christine Kovner of New York University examined the low “mobility” of new RNs. The most striking finding was that in the 15 states surveyed, 52.5 percent of new RNs work within 40 miles of where they attended high school. According to that study, next to teaching, nursing has the lowest mobility of any profession.

Healthcare reporter Richard Kipling of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism interviewed Mr. Auerbach on the matter, and he had this to say about the shortage of Nurses in rural communities: “While (the shortage) is worse for doctors, it is an issue for nurses as well. Nurses are in between. They have to go where the openings are, but that’s driven by where health systems and doctors choose to practice.

Studies continue to show that those openings are exceedingly situated in urban, rather than rural locales.

Of course, sometimes, it’s also good to look at headlines in reverse.

In which case, this one would read “Nursing grads face good job market: 57 percent find work, according to state survey.

Nursing grads face tough job market: 43 percent can’t find work, according to state survey

Posted:   05/14/2012 07:39:13 PM PDT
Updated:   05/14/2012 07:44:48 PM PDT

SANTA CRUZ – New nursing graduates are finding their chosen profession is not as recession-proof as they had expected. Yet Cabrillo College and others offering training for would-be nurses are being advised not to cut back on their programs.

A survey last fall of nearly 1,500 California newly licensed registered nurses found 43 percent did not have a nursing job 18 months after graduating, according to the California Institute for Nursing and Health Care.

According to the nurses who were not working, 92 percent said they were told they did not have enough experience, 54 percent told no jobs were available and 42 percent told a bachelor’s degree was preferred or required. About 80 percent said they would be willing to participate in an unpaid internship to get experience.

The employment rate appears higher for local graduates.

About 80 percent of Cabrillo’s nursing grads found jobs in their field a year after graduation, according to a summer 2011 survey, which is the most recent available, said Rock Pfotenhauser, Cabrillo College’s dean of instruction, career education and economic development.

“It is taking longer (to find a job) than it was four years ago.” he said. “In nursing it’s more difficult for students to find jobs in hospitals, but there are more opportunities in clinics.”

Jill Gallo, coordinator of Cabrillo College’s program for nursing and allied health, said some grads are exploring transfer to a four-year university.

Older nurses are reluctant to retire after seeing their retirement accounts shrink in the downturn and the economic outlook seems uncertain. Hospitals are asking part-time staff to work more hours or opting for traveling nurses from out of the area, according to the Institute.

Both Dominican Hospital and Watsonville Community Hospital are recruiting experienced nurses.

“We continue to hire from various Cabrillo programs such as nursing, medical assistant, and radiology techs,”said Dr. Larry DeGhetaldi, president of Sutter Health‘s Santa Cruz division and Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz. “Our RN (registered nurse) turnover has been very low so our RN hiring at Sutter has been low. The kinds of services offered at Sutter require at least three to four years of nursing experience.”

He added, “We have hired some RNs from Cabrillo on the PAMF side, including our own employees who had gone back to Cabrillo for their RN training.”

Pfotenhauer said the trends on California nursing supply and demand are not predictable.

A state forecast on the need for registered nurses through 2030 reported in November there appears to be a surplus, which could continue if RN graduations remain at current levels and older nurses continue to work at higher rates than in the past, but a shortage could emerge if graduations decline as potential students are discouraged by the job market.

“California will likely need to maintain the present number of nursing graduates in order to meet long-term health care needs,” the forecast concluded.

Pfotenhauer said he is closely monitoring demand with a tool that tracks job postings on the Internet.

“In the Bay region there were 3,908 RN degrees completed in 2010 and 9,480 job postings for RNs,” he said. “This would seem to indicate a shortage. The number of job postings increased in 2011 to 13,820, so we feel the numbers are moving in a direction that favors our graduates.”

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz on Twitter: @jondigumz


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