by Nancy Ryerson
, Staff Writer | August 23, 2013
"No new graduates need apply" — that's the message recently accredited nurses are seeing on job listings around the country. Forty-one percent of employers hiring nurses are only looking for experienced candidates, a recent survey from CareerBuilder found. Meanwhile, registered nurses topped the list of jobs with the most openings, at more than 170,000 vacancies.
For many new nurses, the problem is timing. In 2000, roughly 70,000 nurses became registered. By 2012, that number had shot up to 149,000. But just as more fresh graduates entered the workforce, a weak economy has driven seasoned nurses to put off retirement and stick around. Now, untried nurses are having a hard time competing with more seasoned professionals. In the survey, when asked why recruiting nurses is a challenge, 24 percent responded "I need to hire experienced nurses, not new graduates."
"Hospitals know there are people with experience out there, so they're not in a hurry to hire," Peter McMenamin, senior policy fellow at the American Nurses Association, told DOTmed news. "They want to take their time, see who's available."
But being picky isn't without its consequences. Since 48 percent of nursing jobs take six weeks or longer to be filled, of the surveyed employers, 59 percent reported at least one negative side effect of extended vacancies. Thirty-six percent reported lower employee morale because staff is overworked, and 20 percent said patients get less attention.
"There is a cost to taking your time," said McMenamin. "If you have higher patient-to-nurse ratios, there's a possibility that there can be accidents and higher fatigue."
Another downside to keeping out young nurses is that, inevitably, the experienced nurses who are deferring retirement will retire, especially as the economy improves and their retirement plans are more secure.
"Hospitals should be hiring a mix of nurses," said McMenamin. "If they want experienced nurses that's fine, but they should also be recruiting and hiring new nurses who will gain their skills on the job, and if treated well will stay with the hospital."
Despite current challenges, McMenamin predicts that within the next few years, those ads barring new grads from applying will disappear from job listings. With baby boomers aging and the Affordable Care Act bringing in the newly insured, the demand for nurses will likely be so great that hospitals won't be able to ignore greener applicants.
"I look at nursing as a wonderful profession — the average income is $70,000 now, and there are immediate rewards when patients go in sick and come out better," said McMenamin. "It's still a good choice, even if at first you see these ads."
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