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Nursing employment market looking up


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Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, January 18th, 2011

The stagnant nursing job market is set to pick up in 2011, according to recent reports. After suffering through layoffs, hiring freezes, and new grad unemployment, the news about nursing jobs is about to become more “normal.” In nursing, that means a return to plentiful job openings, new graduate nurses in high demand (especially those with baccalaureate degrees), and renewed concern about the nursing shortage.

Healthcare has been one of the few areas of the economy that has seen steady job creation in the last few months, although nursing has continued to feel the pinch. Many nurses delayed retirement due to decimated retirement funds and concern over spouse’ incomes. Despite the official end of the recession, high unemployment rates for the country continued in 2010, leading many nurses to pick up extra shifts or even return to the profession due to spouses’ job losses or poor job prospects.

As the economy improves, these nurses will be able to plan their retirement, decrease shifts, or leave the profession entirely. In addition, healthcare growth and expansion will see new RN positions added. New graduate nurses should see an end to the difficulties they have faced in finding employment, particularly in California and the Northeast.

More nurses are set to enter the profession this year and the latest data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reveals that more of them will have baccalaureate degrees. There was a 6.1% increase in enrollment in baccalaureate programs in 2010 compared to 2009, which is the tenth year of such an increase. Despite this increase, more than 50,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools in 2010 due to a shortage of faculty and clinical placement sites.

Hospitals can prepare for the increase in demand and potential loss of experienced nurses by focusing on ensuring the organization has a healthy workplace environment and stays attractive to existing staff and future job seekers.

Take a look at your workplace demographics and get an idea of what proportion of your RN workforce is likely to be considering retirement as the economy picks up.

If you’re not already paying attention to succession planning, it’s time to start doing so. The looming retirement of baby boomers means a whole generation of seasoned managers will soon be leaving the workforce. Make sure the next generation is being prepared with leadership training classes and management experience now.

It’s also a good time to look at your latest nurse satisfaction survey and find out what your nurses’ priorities are. Haven’t done a satisfaction survey lately? What are you waiting for? Even in a down economy, don’t neglect this crucial area through fears your staff will eviscerate you for stagnant wages and budget cuts. What keeps nurses satisfied are not annual raises and shift differentials. Most surveys reveal that nurses rank positive working environments, good relationships with managers, being recognized and thanked for their hard work, and opportunities for professional development far more highly than money.