For years now, we’ve been hearing about the nursing shortage in this country. Is that still the case? On the whole, yes, say nurse recruiters throughout the Washington metropolitan area, though there has been a temporary "blip" as a result of the recession.
"The economy has certainly had an impact on the job market for nurses, as nurses who were planning to retire have delayed those plans, part-time nurses have requested additional hours, and full-time nurses have sought additional shifts," says Dennis Hoban, Senior Director of Recruitment for Washington Hospital Center.
But, while short-term the nursing shortage appears to have eased, looks are deceiving, says Hoban. "Long-term, we’re still expecting a shortage for years to come."
Washington Hospital Center is still hiring both new graduates as well as more experienced nurses, says Hoban, but adds that the application process is more competitive than it has been in recent years, and new grads may have to shift their expectations somewhat. "While we’re always looking to hire nurses, not every unit will have openings," says Hoban.
In the recent past, new graduates were able to pick and choose their desired area of specialty but openings for new nurses are not as plentiful at this time, agrees Darlene Vrotsos, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Virginia Hospital Center. "Today, employers are searching for factors that will set candidates apart from the rest of the competition," she says.
"Therefore, it is crucial to be flexible and open to where the opportunities are when it comes time to begin interviewing."
Another way to improve your chances of being selected for a position is by having a customer service attitude, Vrotsos advises. "Today, this skill set is as important to patient outcomes as are critical thinking and technical nursing skills," she says.
Obtaining employment while still in school as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Patient Care Assistant, or Clinical Technician can also enhance the chances of acquiring a position as a new graduate when the time comes, Vrotsos suggests. "This helps you become acclimated to the clinical environment, while giving your potential employer the opportunity to observe your work ethic and performance first-hand."
Virginia Hospital Center brings new graduates into all specialties and provides fellowships that are tailored to the individual.
While the 2008 economic downturn has minimized the effects of the nursing shortage, Inova Health System’s nursing and human resource strategists are planning for the near-term when the improving economy will mean nurses are in greater demand. According to Dr. Patti Connor-Ballard, RN and Interim Chief Nurse Executive, despite the lower vacancy rates resulting from the present economy, Inova continues to hire new graduate and experienced nurses to help fill vacancies resulting from promotions and other career enhancement opportunities.
Realizing that the nursing shortage will soon resurface, Inova Health System is committed to its investments in the new graduate fellowship nurse program, designed to provide supplemental education and training to new graduates. "Inova plans to select a number of new graduate nurses who distinguish themselves among their college peers for on-the-job education, mentoring, and training for medical, surgical, oncology and some critical care areas," says Connor-Ballard.
Inova also continues to seek experienced nurses to provide patient care while allowing for promotions of nurses who are interested in exploring a secondary field of interest such as informatics, professional practice, or quality. Inova also seeks highly trained nurses for areas where there are expansions due to new service lines or new facilities.
According to Connor-Ballard, Inova Health System remains fully dedicated to meeting the evolving needs of the communities it serves by providing the highest quality of nursing care available. "This realization requires Inova to continuously recruit, train, and develop nurses who provide safe and uncompromising care," she says.
Even in the midst of an unsteady economy, the good news is that nursing remains an excellent career choice, says Eileen Dohmann, Vice President of Nursing at Mary Washington Hospital. "The flexibility and variety that nursing offers continue to be an attractive draw."
While Mary Washington hired fewer new graduates last year than it has in recent years, Dohmann expects those numbers to increase in the near future. "I don’t want people not to go to nursing school because they think there aren’t jobs available, because that’s just not true," she says, adding that Mary Washington is in an excellent position to hire more nurses as the economy improves because it is both located in a growing area and is a growing organization itself.
If you’re a new graduate or soon will be, Dohmann recommends looking for a position sooner rather than later, as well as considering different geographic locations, and different kinds of nursing.
"Get experience anywhere you can," Dohmann advises. And most importantly, she adds, "Don’t give up."