You are investing two, three or four years in a nursing education with high hopes of getting a job, all while you consider the oft-repeated statistic that there is a worldwide nursing shortage. But getting closer to graduation, you start to get nervous. You hear reports that some graduates are getting turned down for jobs, or hiring freezes. Is the nursing shortage a myth or is it real? Just how good are your job prospects once you’ve earned your nursing degree?

The answer to these questions depends on how far into the future you are looking. In the long-term, the nursing employment opportunities will absolutely increase. The number of jobs currently opening in the field is rising each year from the current 100,000 jobs available to roughly 500,000 jobs opening up in the next decade. Up until recently, there weren’t enough training institutions and faculty available to teach potential nursing candidates to meet demand. In fact, just five years ago, tens of thousands of qualified nursing candidates were turned away because there weren’t enough spaces in nursing schools, reported Linda Aiken, a nursing professor and director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. But in the short-term, the poor economy has put a temporary damper on hiring practices, particularly in areas with high unemployment, according Rebecca Hendren, an editor for HealthLeaders Media. In a recent analysis article:

Nursing Retirement/Attrition Slows Down

In bad economic times, people who might otherwise leave their jobs are waiting until their 401Ks and other retirement investments improve, they can find a job in a different field, or their spouse can find work.

Budget Cuts Have Forced Hiring Freezes

Many hospitals have been forced to cut budgets and instill hiring freezes, particularly in areas like Southern California, Detroit, Michigan, and much of Florida. That’s due partly to the fact that people in the U.S. tend to see the doctor less when the economy is down, and because it’s harder to hospitals to expand when unemployment is up in a specific area.

Hospitals and Medical Facilities are Trying to Prevent Job Turnover

In both major urban centers and smaller rural cities and towns, when health care providers are hiring nurses, they are looking for people who want to stay with the organization. That might put a recent nursing graduate at a disadvantage, particularly if relocating for a job, because it may be harder to convince hiring managers you won’t leave if a better job offer comes along.

But like much bad news in this economy, a clever nursing job seeker can study the playing field and maximize their ability to find work using the following strategies:

Location, location, location

It doesn’t matter whether you are in a big city, or a smaller town. If unemployment is up, job opportunities, including nursing careers, are down.  In practical terms, that means nurses in Southern California, Michigan and many parts of Florida will have a harder time finding work than their counterparts in Boston (where a plethora of research and medical institutions are located), New York City (where two years ago, surveys showed that 19 percent of the nursing workforce in Queens and Brooklyn was over the age of 55), Washington D.C., Maryland, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Minnesota, according to a January 2011 ranking of the best and worst economies among U.S. cities and towns. Good and bad job markets can vary not only from state to state, but within a state as well. Forbes ranked Hartford, Connecticut, a top job market in 2011, but according to a recent Nursing Link article on, one of the worst places for health care professionals to seek employment is nearby Waterbury, Connecticut.

Stay A While

Hiring managers are much more likely to employ nurses if they think they might commit to the medical facility for a few years. Another bonus to signing on for several years is that many facilities will offer partial or even full tuition reimbursement and pay for further training.

Remember, nurses are needed desperately in the health care world more than ever. When there aren’t enough nursees, there are “substantial impacts on emergency preparedness, quality of care, patient safety, access to needed health care services (especially for vulnerable populations) and economic growth,” writes Aiken. These are duties that can’t be performed by anyone other than a nurse, so don’t be discouraged. Be smart when you search for work, and you will definitely find it.

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