Demand for nursing graduates may increase in 2014

(Collegian)  The College of Health and Human Services offers a Nursing degree option, one of the most impacted areas of study at Fresno State.

Perspective students have to compete for only 70 openings each year to the nursing baccalaureate program, then must face a hard reality upon graduation: the job market in Fresno County is slow and projected to stay that way.

“The demand for nursing students rises and falls,” said Andrew Hoff, dean of the college. “There have been times when every graduate had a job waiting for them. That’s not true now because there are more nursing graduates than are needed in the workforce.”

Hoff expects the job picture to improve when the national health care program takes full effect in 2014 and as current nurses continue to retire. The Employment Development Department projections over the next eight years show that registered nurses have the eighth-most job openings and, with a median hourly rate of $39 per hour, make more than twice the hourly rate of any other occupation in the top 10 and more than four times the rate of all but one in the top 10.

“The nursing profession pays well,” Hoff said. “And students who are high-achieving in any academic program do stand a better chance in getting a job in any field. Nursing is no exception.”

There are currently about 1,300 students enrolled in the nursing program at Fresno State, 750 of which are in pre-nursing. These students are in their freshman or sophomore years and have yet to complete the eight prerequisite courses for the major. Every semester, only 35 of the pre-nursing majors are accepted into the upper-division nursing program.

Once accepted into the program, students must take a series of set classes with accompanying “clinicals”— 90-hour instructionals held at hospitals and clinics — where students get the experience and training they will need to pass their NCLEX exam, the licensing test to become an RN after graduation.

“You have to pass the test for any skill at the campus first and then at the clinical you have either a nurse or an instructor helping you with that skill,” said senior nursing student Christina Crawford. “And the clinical is its own class with its own grade. The state mandates that.”

Crawford feels optimistic about her chances for work in the Central Valley. She was working in a nurse’s office with a local school district and will have the opportunity to come back as a nurse once she has graduated.

“I feel confident because I am learning things that are going to be put to use,” Crawford said. “The job market right now, it’s a little bit hard at times, but I feel pretty optimistic about it as far as for me.”

Other students seeking to elude the impacted nursing program pursue some of the other options the College of Health and Human Services has to offer. They then can go for more training elsewhere after graduation. Recent graduate Justina Miller, who received her degree in community health, is working at Clovis Community Medical Center and is optimistic about the job market.

“There are lots of programs out there that are looking for recent grads,” Miller said. “Fresno, being such a big county, there [are] three different community hospitals as well as St. Agnes and Kaiser.” Nevertheless, Miller is planning to get further training as a nurse at either Fresno City College or West Hills College in Lemoore.

“I’m more focused on community and public health nursing so I’m not actively looking for work in the public health education field,” Miller said.