Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Nurses: Where to Go?

It seems that newly graduated nurses who want to remain in New England may need to rethink their job-hunting strategy.

According to nursing students that I know who are graduating next month, the lack of nursing jobs in New England---especially in the Boston area---is an enormous disappointment. According to one student I spoke with today, only four of her fellow graduates have landed a post-graduation job, whereas in previous years, recruiters were falling over themselves to hire new grads as fast as they could pass the state boards.

While a nursing shortage still seems to be cooking in the health care cauldron, the economic engine driving the creation of new nursing jobs is sputtering, at best. And while New England currently seems to have a hiring freeze in place, states like Texas, Florida, California and Montana are apparently the places to go for new nurses---or seasoned ones---to find gainful employment.

If hospitals and health care facilities are still short-staffed but unable to hire, what are they doing to their nurses whom they still employ? Are double-shifts and mandatory overtime being touted as the answer to the shortage? With hiring freezes in place, do the nurses on staff work harder, care for even more patients, and sprint headlong towards burnout? What are the human resource consequences when conditions prevent new nurses from being brought into the workforce despite an ongoing shortage?

I'm no expert, but I can see that the nursing economy has been hit hard by the current economic downturn, and if I was a new nurse just out of school, I would think outside of the box, look as far afield as I could, and be willing to travel wherever the work was. Be it Florida, Texas or Montana, getting one's feet wet as a novice nurse is crucial, and spending some time in an unfamiliar region of the country might not necessarily be a bad thing, especially if one is young, unattached, and prepared to relocate for gainful employment.

I have encouraged many people to go to nursing school, and I hope that those who have heeded my advice don't rue the day that they made the fateful decision to become a nurse. But like all situations, this current economic reality will also pass, and nursing's economic and employment landscape will also change.

Lucky and blessed to myself have an interesting (but not terribly well-paying) job, I wish these new grads luck, and hope that they can navigate these current waters with grace and a modicum of patience.

Every nurse deserves a job, and every patient deserves a well-educated and well-paid nurse. My hope is that this current crop of new grads will find the employment they need, the experience they desire, and rest assured that they have chosen their new career well, no matter the current economic conditions.
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