Where are all the nursing jobs?

Recently I was asked by a recent nursing graduate, “Where are all the nursing jobs? Where have they gone?”   It was just a few years ago when reports were suggesting a significant nationwide shortage of nurses beginning as early as 2010 and growing throughout the next decade.  Yet here we sit in 2011 with many new graduates unable to find employment.  The simple answer is that the lack of nursing jobs is related to the economy and this is partially correct.

Starting in 2007 the economic downturn caused many nurses to reconsider their employment and retirement plans.  With the average age of a nurse today in the early 50s planned retirement was a large part of projections that suggested a growing nationwide shortage of nurses.  With the economic downturn many nurses have indefinitely postponed their plans to either cutback hours or to retire outright.

But like many complicated issues the current state of employment in nursing is result of more than simply one answer.  Over the past decade there has been an unprecedented push to lower ‘length of stays’ nationwide.   Over the past 5 years this has resulted in significantly fewer patient days and closing of many unoccupied beds.

In addition, over the past decade healthcare has seen a growing shift of care from inpatient to outpatient settings.  A growing number of patients are being seen in outpatient settings rather than the more traditional inpatient settings.  This has resulted in not only far fewer inpatient days but care being provided in areas not traditionally considered appropriate for new graduates.

This recent trend in health care has also resulted in more patients being seen in emergency rooms driving up wait times and throughput challenges for many institutions.  While many hospitals have experienced decreases in the need medical-surgical beds the needs for Emergency Department services and Critical Care services have been skyrocketing.

So the need for inpatient beds has decreased and health care has shifted to areas not traditionally staffed by new graduates.  While some hospitals have been quick to accept new graduates into these non-traditional roles others have continued to seek experienced nurses for these roles.

Check out the next post in this series to find out who is still hiring nurses, and some thoughts on jobs for new graduates.


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