For Nursing Jobs, New Grads Need Not Apply

new grads nursing jobs

By Annalyn Kurtz

Since the recession, health care has been the single biggest sector for job growth, but that doesn't mean it's easy to get hired. Registered nurses fresh out of school are coming across thousands of job postings with an impossible requirement: "no new grads."

It's a problem well documented by the nursing industry. About 43 percent of newly licensed RNs still do not have jobs within 18 months after graduation, according to a survey conducted by the American Society of Registered Nurses.

"The process has become more and more discouraging, especially since hospitals want RNs with experience, yet nobody is willing to give us this experience," said Ronak Soliemannjad, 26, who has been searching for a nursing job since she graduated in June.

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New grads have taken to posting their frustrations on, a social network for nurses.

"It is a tough market for a new grad RN. A 'year experience required' or 'not considering new grads at this time' is pretty much the norm," wrote one.

"It's like new grads have a disease or something," said another.

How can this be, at a time when health care jobs are booming and a supposed shortage of RNs sent many career seekers running to nursing school?

The recession is to blame, says Peter Buerhaus, a registered nurse and economist who teaches at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. In a paper he co-authored in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, he shows an interesting phenomenon happens in the demographics of the nursing workforce when the economy is weak.

About 90 percent of nurses are women, 60 percent are married, and roughly a quarter are over 50 years old. It's typical for many nurses to take time off to raise children in their 30s, and given the long days spent working on their feet, many often retire in their late 50s.

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Prior to the recession, about 73,000 nurses left the profession each year due to childbearing, retirement, burning out or death.

But when the recession hit, spouses lost jobs, 401(k)s lost money, and facing financial uncertainty, fewer nurses chose to leave work, Buerhaus said.

"Many of those nurses are still in the workforce, and they're not leaving because we don't see a convincing jobs recovery yet," Buerhaus said. "They're clogging the market and making it harder for these new RNs to get a job."

At the same time, enrollment in nursing colleges has exploded in recent years. In the 2010-2011 school year, 169,000 people were enrolled in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs. That's more than double the 78,000 students from a decade earlier, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

There just aren't enough jobs to go around for all these new grads.

Annah Karam heads recruiting for six hospitals in the Daughters of Charity Health System in Los Angeles. Each hospital has a program in place aimed at hiring at least 10 new grads a year, but the competition is fierce. Karam often receives more than 1,000 applications for each post. For other positions, the hospitals prefer experienced nurses.

"We're new grad friendly but with the challenges we face in the hospital world, we often need seasoned nurses," Karam said. "We hire thousands of nurses across the whole system, yet a very small percentage are new grads."

Eventually, nursing grads should have great job prospects.

Demand for health care services is expected to climb as more baby boomers retire and health care reform makes medical care accessible to more people. As older nurses start retiring, economists predict a massive nursing shortage will reemerge in the United States.

"We've been really worried about the future workforce because we've got almost 900,000 nurses over the age of 50 who will probably retire this decade, and we'll have to replace them," Buerhaus said.

But for recent grads like Soliemannjad, that's not particularly encouraging.

"It just seems that when the experts talk about the economy getting better, they're not talking about it improving in two or three months. They're talking about years," she said. "You have new grads with student loans to pay off. We simply can't not work for another year and half."

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Bachelors Degree--not two year degree. Be willing to relocate, NE is bad now, but SE is better, SW better yet, rural areas too. In other words get your foot in the door where you can.

March 06 2013 at 8:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All that is said is true! And also, every nurse I know has at least two jobs, or one and a half jobs.

March 06 2013 at 8:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On January 1, 2016, the first Baby-Boomers will turn 70. At that time, boomers will die at the rate of 1,000 per day. They will not be able to escape death. So my advice to young people is to just hang in there and thousands of jobs will be available in a few short years.

January 16 2013 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob's comment

Just don't plan on eating until 2016

March 06 2013 at 8:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This right after the article on how we are going to recover the lost jobs. Something does not add up.

January 16 2013 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I teach nursing and I've seen this cycle come and go. When I was a new grad in the mid-'70s it was just as tough, and our Dean told us to seek work out of state because there would not be enough positions for us all after graduation. I waited 10 months to be hired, and got the job because I liked psych nursing and was willing to work in the admissions unit of a rather violent state hospital. I put in 3 years, then got accepted for an ICU which wanted a psych nurse on board, and gave me full ICU training to get me. I remained in critical care for years, went to ER and did a bit of management before becoming a Nurse Practitioner and teaching in a school of nursing for a local university. In nursing you have to be flexible. NO ONE is going to get hired right away for labor and delivery unless she is the niece of the Nursing Director! Grades do count, so study hard. Hospitals will ask for your transcripts. Some fine night (and for most new grads it will be nights) there will be a crisis at one end of your unit and your end will also then have somone "going south'. It will be up to YOU to put your past academics with your clinical practice to figure out what's going wrong and intervene quickly. Hospitals want compassionate AND smart nurses. It's essential these days with the nursing role so much greater than it was 35 years ago when I was a new grad. Positions are opening up slowly. Take anything you can get - it's all considered experience these days. 20 years ago if you began in a doctor's office or a nursing home, you would never be able to move into a hospital position. That's no longer true. Until you are hired, take blood presures in church at coffee hour, volunteer to teach simple hygiene measures in a Scout troop, do SOMETHING to show a future employer that you are not just sitting there twiddling your thumbs. Use what you have for the good of your community. It's very attractive on a resume'.

January 16 2013 at 1:33 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to nightingale11's comment

Another option for those that want to go into nursing: Look into training with a specific hospital group in exchange for a certain number of years of working for that hospital (usually 2 or 3 years). That's what my daughter is going to do when she graduates high school this year. In my state (I don't know about others), a 2 yr. degree is enough to sit for RN licensing. She will attend the local community college to get her perquisites and gen. ed., then she will attend a local hospital's clinical program for free. All she has to do is sign an employment agreement for 3 yrs. She will then go on to BSN and forward. (She is considering NP.) Hope this helps someone interested in the field.

January 16 2013 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Stephanie's comment

My 2 nieces both did this with the UPMC program in Pittsburgh (which is almost all medical right now). In exchange for just 2 years of service, they will pay for nursing school. Once you are in the system, they will also pay for your Bachelor's degree even accomodating your schedule for school. It's also important to get your foot in the door in a hospital, clinic etc. while you are in school. Both of them got jobs as medtechs while in school.

January 17 2013 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

It is the entire medical field not just nursing... it is happing with coders, billers, CNA'S, and MA's. It is bleek across the board. Every single one of them are requesting 2 years experience and the cure for that is give us the jobs so we can get the experience...we will take lower pay just to get the experience . Wake up employers those same employees whom are still with you are just about burnt out and may cost your business money in legal fees because they feel like they are owed something because they are doing the work of 5 people. Have you heard of SNAPPED!?!

January 16 2013 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a Nurse I have seen this trend come & go, When you first come out of school in a recession there are too many looking for jobs: just wait take what you can get and in a few months the shortage will re-appear, and you have a job! That is if you want to stay in Nursing, I know too many who went through school but find the job too demanding. They leave for something easier. That is why there is a shortage. Nursing: the hours are bad that is true, but so is any 24/7 hour job, some facilities overtime is mandatory, can't leave until your replacement shows up. No you really cannot leave, you could lose your license, if course, there is a law you are allowed to only work 2 or 3 shifts. The biggest is the emotional drain, to keep your cool in every type of situation is a skill, you HAVE to learn. You’re not allowed to show anger, or upset, you NEVER bring your personal problems to work. However, for some it is very rewarding and that’s why we stay. So don’t worry be happy there is a JOB WAITING FOR YOU NEW GRADUATES!

January 16 2013 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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