The health-care sector is booming. So why are nurses having trouble finding jobs?

(Washington Post) If you’re looking for a new job, as more Americans are these days, there couldn’t be a surer bet than the health-care sector. Of the 665,000 jobs the economy added in 2012, 158,000 of them have been in health care. Even when the economy was shedding huge numbers of jobs in 2008 and 2009, the sector was still growing:

 

The health-care sector keeps getting bigger largely because our health-care needs keep growing: Americans are getting older. At the same time, study after study finds there aren’t enough doctors to care for them. This all should make a field such as nursing a pretty certain slam dunk, right?

Wrong: David Glenn, a nursing student at University of Maryland who blogs at Notes on Nursing, flags a new study showing that nearly a third of recent nursing graduates are having trouble finding jobs.

 

The National Student Nurses Association surveyed 3,733 nursing students in September 2011, about four months after their graduation. Among them, 36 percent said they were not yet employed. It wasn’t for lack of effort: 26 percent reported difficulty getting a job in their preferred specialty, while 55 percent couldn’t find employment in a preferred geographic area.

A lot of this could have to do with older nurses staying, during a tough economy, longer than had been expected. A separate survey, this one of nurses’ employers, found that the majority of institutions that hire nurses have a pretty low vacancy rate, less than 5 percent. “The vacancy rate for bedside nurses continues to be lower than typical and is a clear indication that nurses are binding themselves to the workforce with many delaying retirement,” the report from Nursing Solutions, Inc. found.

A lot of it also has to do with geography. As mentioned earlier, more than half of the unemployed nursing school graduates said they couldn’t find a job in the geographic region they preferred. In health reform, there’s a lot of talk about impending doctor and nurse “shortages.” But some would argue our problem is less of a shortage and more of a poor distribution of resources: Health-care professionals end up concentrated in metropolitan areas, with few to serve those in rural communities.

That seems to be true for nurses. About 83 percent live in large metropolitan areas, according to the Health Resources and Service Administration. Graduates may encounter more demand looking in more rural areas, such as Nevada, which has 604 nurses for every 100,000 people (one of the country’s lowest rates). The nursing jobs may be available, but not necessarily where they’re desired by recent nursing graduates.

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