Returning veteran nurses limits jobs for nursing graduates

Recent nursing graduates may find job hunting more difficult as veteran nurses return to work because of recession-related financial stresses, an industry expert said.

Clair Jordan, executive director of the Texas Nurses Association, said most nurses who return to the workforce after retirement do so to compensate for the income of spouses who have lost their jobs or to provide a second income to their households. As a result, new graduates may not be able to get their first choice in terms of shifts or areas of work.

“What has dried up a little bit is the jobs for new graduates who don’t have experience,” said Marinda Allender, instructor and assistant dean of Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Julie Marsh, a senior nursing major, said she is about to graduate and enter into a field in which others seem to be struggling to break into. Marsh said she considers herself lucky to have found a job as an assistant nurse at Cook Children’s Hospital, but she said some of her friends weren’t as fortunate.

“I feel for the people who are graduating with me,” Marsh said. “I would be very frustrated…you’re thinking that you’re not going to have issues getting a job…and then now it’s like good luck getting a job somewhere even if it’s somewhere you don’t want to be.”

Marsh said she thinks her friends were passed over for jobs because hospitals are now looking to hire experienced nurses even though they may need more staff.

“They’re more likely to choose someone who has experience over someone that doesn’t because they don’t have to spend the money to train these graduate nurses,” Marsh said.

Something that graduate nurses, those who have not yet received registered nurse credentials, weren’t expecting to be a factor in their job eligibility is their college GPA, Marsh said.

Marsh said hospitals are looking at GPAs to further distinguish between the numerous applicants. She said applying to a variety of places, keeping your GPA up and being flexible and willing to commute to a job might increase nursing students’ chances of finding work.

Steve Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, said some recent nursing graduates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area may have to relocate to find a job. While there are still jobs in metropolitan areas like Fort Worth, smaller cities like Abilene may have more jobs for recently graduated nurses, he said.

Allender said she thinks all TCU nursing graduates will probably find jobs within two months. Fort Worth area hospitals might not be hiring recent nursing graduates, but there are still other places willing to hire them, Allender said, pointing to several advertisements for nursing jobs in an industry magazine.

Even as the economy struggles to regain its footing, nursing programs in the state continue to grow.

Allender said the university’s nursing program has grown to classes of 60 to 70 students.

“When I started here in the ’90s we might have classes of just 20, maybe 30, and now we’re turning students away,” she said.

The university is not the only one to experience an increase in nursing students.

Jordan said there has been a 50 percent increase in people enrolling in Texas nursing schools during the past eight years, including community colleges.

Love said this increase in nursing applicants may be a result of funding allocated by the Texas Legislature during its last session in 2009 to Texas nursing schools.

The Texas Legislature in 2009 allotted $30 million to increase enrollment at nursing schools statewide, according to an article in the Dallas Business Journal. All schools in the state that graduate registered nurses are eligible to apply for funding.

The money is distributed according to the rate at which schools graduate nursing students, Love said.