The advice to those looking for new grad RN jobs is that they may need to be a bit more patient and flexible in looking for employment than he or she might have anticipated during nursing school. Most newly-minted RNs traditionally look for work in a hospital setting, as confirmed by a National Student Nurses Association study from September 2010. Top nursing specialty choices of new graduates are intensive care and emergency nursing (37% and 36% respectively), closely followed by maternity and obstetrical, medical-surgical (both 30%).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the majority of nurses are found in hospitals, starting as (non-critical) care staff nurses, with promotions granted for good work performance with experience and continuing education. A much smaller proportion work in other settings, such as rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, health departments, and physicians’ offices. According to the NSNA study, the majority of new hires do eventually find work in hospitals, but for those who are having trouble finding employment, there are also other positions worth considering, such as physicians’ offices, health departments, or similar community settings, as well as long-term care centers.
Due to a rise in the elderly population from aging Baby Boomers, there will be more need than ever in the next few years for qualified nursing personnel to staff and care for this increased shift to retirement and long-term care facilities. Other possible career options include rehabilitation and veterans’ hospitals and outpatient centers.
Is There Really a Nursing Shortage?
While there has been a lot said recently about the looming (and real) nursing shortage, at the same time, due to tight budgets and dropping revenues, many hospitals and other health care facilities have been forced to cut back on staff, older RNs are remaining in the workforce longer due to economic needs, and nursing schools are graduating more students than jobs currently exist to be filled.
The NSNA reports in the 2010 study that nearly 45% of 2010 nursing school graduates still hadn’t found jobs more than a year after graduation, mainly due to hospital budget cutbacks, as well as older nurses working longer, precluding new hiring. These figures can vary depending on the state: the Western states generally had a lower hire and pay rate (with the possible exception of California) than the Central states or Northeast (which showed a job increase of as much as 40%).
What to do: Strategies for Getting Hired
New RN graduates need to be patient and persistent, as well as flexible in their employment search. While wanting to move directly into a preferred specialty is understandable, any position and upward or lateral career move can help them eventually find their professional niche. Very few new college graduates, regardless of degree, field or grade-point average, land their ‘dream job’ with the first try. They need to remember that each job has something to offer in terms of skills learned, especially in nursing, where being able to show professional versatility to a prospective employer will improve an applicant’s chances of being hired.
Because nursing job availability can vary so much from place to place, at least one experienced RN-mentor recommends that new grads consider relocating to those parts of the country that have more openings, rather than wait for openings and risk losing their new skills to lack of practice, or worse, be forced to leave their new profession before they have even started working.
Professional Organizations to the Rescue
One professional nursing organization, the American Society of Registered Nurses, is helping new graduates with their ‘Save the Grads’ jobs program. Its purpose is to reduce the drop-out rate from discouraged new RN’s who decide to leave the profession due to lack of work. Assistance includes tips and information on hiring trends, job boards and alerts with ‘hidden’ new jobs that often aren’t made public knowledge, as well as new grad programs in hospitals and other facilities.
Other professional advocacy groups such as the ASNA and the American Nurses Association offer nursing career advice, job-hunting tips and job posting boards for student and regular members.