What Nursing Shortage?!!

As “graduation season” approaches once again, another class of nurses will be looking for jobs and many will be disappointed that there seem to be no jobs available which is not what they expected when they became nursing students.

For years we have experienced and heard about this terrible shortage of nurses and if you want to walk out of school and write your own ticket, go to nursing school. And then theses students began to graduate and found they need six years of experience to get a job!

What happened to the nursing shortage? Why can’t new nurses find jobs? Well in a simple explanation, the recession stalled the nursing shortage. But as the economy recovers, the nursing shortage is expected to be worse than ever before.

According to Peter Buerhaus PhD, RN a leading researcher into trends in nursing at Vanderbilt University, there are currently over 900,000 working nurses in the U.S. who are over 50 years of age. By 2008 the total number of RNs had risen to 3.1 million.

When the economy tanked beginning in 2008, many retired and semi-retired nurses were forced to return to the workforce and essentially took up the available jobs. In the recessed economy, non-emergent and non-essential healthcare all but vanished causing employers to freeze hiring. Those who were hiring only wanted experienced nurses.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 37,000 new jobs became available in healthcare in March 2011 alone. In fact so far this year, 283,000 new jobs have been created and many of those jobs have and will go to RNs with or without experience.

As the economy recovers, we may well see a mass exodus of older nurses who came out of retirement or passed on retiring for the time being. And as these nurses age, they will join the masses of a growing and aging population which is going to demand more and better health care. Combining all of the nurse grads who have not been able to find jobs, there will still be a considerable and growing shortage of nurses.

Buerhaus encourages new grad nurses to be patient and in the course of the next few months or year expect to find multiple opportunities. Those who take the time to continue their education and obtain advanced degrees while they wait may even find themselves much better poised to find even better career choices.

For the present, new grads need to be open to relocating. Many less populated and less popular locations do have job openings where larger metropolitan areas that can attract more candidates will most certainly be more picky and looking to get experienced nurses for fewer job openings.

In predicting the need for more nurses, the economic downturn and the effects of the recession were not part of the thought process. And as the economy normalizes, the nursing shortage will definitely return and with a bang.


  • Feste

    As a college student majoring in English (lib arts), I know a ridiculous amount of people who are in for nursing. I often wonder how the job market is for them.

  • David

    The nursing shortage topic is something that will always be an issue. Providers are forced to deal with resource or staffing constraints. Ultimately, those that manage this well, have the happiest staff and patients. And as the population ages (2015-2030), the need for nurses will grow tremendously.

    Looking to increase your hourly rate, find PRN shiftsor find a new FT job? There are many opportunities out there… Post your Resume on PRNlist.com and be the first one alerted to opportunities as they arise.

    Nurses who show their value and are consistently rated well, will command a higher rate or salary.

  • Courtney

    I am a nursing student graduating in July, and this is the exact question I ask my instructors all the time. Thank you for finally providing me with an answer. What I have found in discussing job options with my instructors is exactly what you are saying. I need to be open to possibly relocating, and basically I cannot be picky. There are jobs out there, but they are out there because they are the positions many nurses do not want. The bad shifts, less populated community hospitals, etc. I am not worried that I will not be able to find a job when it comes to start looking; I am just not too excited about where I end up. However, any experience is an awesome resume booster, and once I get some it will certainly make life a bit easier in finding a more preferable position.

  • nmedley3

    I share the same concern as my fellow nursing students. I will be graduating from nursing school in a few months with huge student loans. When I started nursing school, it seemed like a very lucrative career, there being a nurses shortage. I thought that I would be walking out of nursing school and into a job. But as a result of the recession and all the other factors, it seems like it is going to be a bit harder than I anticipated the job market. I am trying to stay optimistic and hope my job search, as new licensed nurse is not as difficult as it sounds.

  • Lauren

    I am a fourth term nursing student graduating in December. I did not really hear about nurses not getting hired until I was accepted into nursing school. Back in high school I heard about the nursing shortage and that was one of the reasons I started looking at nursing as a stable career. Even today, many people think that it will be easy for me to find a job because all they hear on the news is about the nursing shortage, and how the baby boomers will be retiring and needing health care. I have to keep telling them that nurses are needed, but the hospitals cannot afford to hire new staff due to the poor economic times.

    In my leadership class, we just discussed how many hospitals are turning to mandatory overtime and increased nurse/client ratios. This so called solution not only decreases patient safety but increases nurse burnout.

  • skasparek

    I am going to be graduating in December. I have mixed viewpoints about the nursing shortage and availability of jobs. This makes me very nervous as students loans kick in pretty quickly after graduation. I also worry about finding a job because I don't have previous experience. Tech/aide work have not been an option for me due to the demands of nursing school coupled with raising 3 young children. I sincerely hope that all of the hard work that I have put into my schooling along with my good grades will count for something.

  • skasparek

    I have heard many mixed messages about the nursing shortage and the availablity of jobs. I am graduating in December. I have not worked as an aide/tech due to the demands of school coupled with the fact that I have 3 young children. I have heard that it is very hard to get a job without experience. I hope that the hard work that I have put into my schooling along with my good grades will count for some experience. December is quickly approaching…

  • skasparek

    I am a nursing student and will be graduating in December. I have heard many mixed messages about the nursing shortage and availablity of jobs. This obviulsy concerns me. I have not worked as and aide/tech through schooling due to the demands of school coupled with the fact that I have three young children to take care of as well. I have heard that it is unlikely to get hired without experience. I hope that the hard work that I have put into my schooling as well as the good grades that I have received will count for something. December is quickly approaching…

  • skasparek

    I am also concerned about the mixed messages that I have been hearing about the shortage. It makes me nervous as I will be graduating in December. I have not worked as an aide or tech during my schooling due to the demands of my schooling and having 3 young kids. A lot of people say that you won't get hired if you haven't had experience. I would hope that the hard work that I have put into my schooling and the good grades that I have to show for it would count for something. December is coming up pretty quick…

  • masiharif

    Hi everyone,my name is Arif and I have been working as a nurse for 30 years.My son recently graduated from nursing school and is in the process of finding a job. Everyone I ask says it should take him about 8 months to to find a job. My question is, if there is such a huge nursing shortage, why are institutions not hiring new graduates. I think this subject should be fleshed out a little more. For example, where exactly are the nursing shortages? They sure aren't in New York where I am.

  • Clare

    I agree with the original post regarding retired/semi-retired nurses. I work as a student on an inpatient oncology unit and there have been several nurses that have delayed retirement or began increasing their hours/week due to the economy. Even so, we have hired several new grads. Two were hired in January and luckily my boss says there will be a spot for me in July when I graduate. I consider myself very fortunate though because I do not know very many fellow classmates that have potential jobs lined up. Also, my hospital will hire as a Graduate Nurse before passing boards. I think it is an advantage to have a job as student throughout school. Although some of my classmates even find it difficult to get jobs as students. Hopefully opportunities for new grads will begin to open up.

  • oosokute

    This is actually something that I have been asking myself about because I don’t understand how they keep saying there is a nursing shortage but I have applied to two hospitals for a nurse extern/ nurse technician position; both, I have received a letter back stating that due to funding they cannot hire but they will keep me in mind for when economy picks up.

    I feel as though it would benefit not only nurses that are sitting without a job but also the patients and hospitals if hospitals hired more nurses. In the long run, it would save them money because even if you add one more nurse to a unit, it would decrease the nurse-patient ratio which would include a faster recovery for patients and also decrease the risk of there being incidences; it will also give the hospital a better reputation. When you have less patients, that’s more time a nurse can take with them and focus on their care and truly gaining trust with the patient; this will make the patient feel cared about and start spreading the word of “blank hospital’s staff are very friendly and take time to actually get to know you”. From what I’ve seen as a student, nurses don’t have this time.

    I feel as though if there are postings available that means they are hiring but I guess I was wrong. I am graduating in December and I am afraid that after taking the NCLEX I will not be able to find a job and will have to move out of state just to do what I went to school for. I am glad to hear that it will pick up from here instead of get worse. This gives me hope that I will have a job and not have to worry about it

  • Amy

    This article was great for me because I will be graduating this July. I have heard many rumors and horror stories of recent grads not being able to find jobs, or having to take all of the off shift hours if they did find one. I was under the impression, when I started nursing school, that jobs were everywhere! I didn't expect it to be so hard to find a nursing job! I know hospital budgets are limited, but wouldn't it be wonderful if they took advantage of the more experienced nurses and hired new ones while they were still there? This way, the experienced nurses can teach and prepare the newly licensed nurse and provide an extended orientation. This may reduce anxiety and fears of new grads. Just a suggestion, but I know it's not realistic. I figure everything happens for a reason and the right job will come along at the right time.

  • Bradley

    It seems as though there may be more nursing shortages in nursing homes because of the (perhaps lack of) challenges nurses are faced with in that setting. Most nurses I've encountered graduating with their BSNs want to work in an acute care setting on the floor or in an ICU because of intellectual challenges they pose. The complexity of the patients in the nursing home is not the same. If they become acutely ill, they are transferred to the hospital.

  • Faye

    I am graduating in about two months and I have heard from many nurses that I should not be discouraged if I do not get a job right away. We hear about the plenty of nurses ready to retire and the obvious nursing shortage, and then I speak to plenty of new grads who are working hard to find jobs. I can say that each new grad I have spoken to, probably about 10 or so, have had some trouble, but all have found jobs eventually. I just hope that by the time I have taken (an hopefully passed) the NCLEX that I will be able to find a job, and if not that I stay hopeful that I will!

  • Anonymous

    As an aged care nurse in Australia I can tell you there is a huge shortage of nurses in aged care.
    The nursing homes are now advertising jobs avaiable for those that are still completing their aged care course! If there was better pay, better working conditions and the RN treated us AIN (assistance in nurses) with more respect maybe the industry would not be in the shape its in!
    Nursing Issues.

  • Doreen

    A few years ago when I decided to go back to school the statistics showed health related jobs, especially nursing, would be leading the way in hiring new college grads. But as you mentioned, no one factored in the recession and those part-time/retired/semi-retired nurses returning to full time status to help compensate for the loss of income due to spouses losing jobs. It can be discouraging as a student nurse or recent graduate when talking with nurse recruiters and reviewing hospital job positions, and hearing facilities are requiring applicants to have a minimum one year experience to be considered. I am still hopefully that in three months when I am finished with my BSN and pass the NCLEX there will be a nursing job for me and my classmates.

  • poetrygirl855

    Your post is the exact question I asked my nursing instructor two days ago. I have heard about the nursing shortage for years and was thinking I would have lots of options when I graduate. Now, with eleven weeks left of school, I realize how difficult it really is. Nurses are needed, but instead of hiring new staff, hospitals require mandatory overtime and high nurse to patient ratios. Only sixteen states have restrictions on the use of mandatory overtime. The ANA supports state laws and regulations prohibiting the use of mandatory overtime as well as pursued federal legislation (ANA, 2006). We need to quit killing our nurses with ridiculous hours and workload and hire the new nurses who need jobs!

    American Nurses Association. (2001b). Opposition to mandatory overtime. Retrieved
    March 30, 2006 from