Experienced nurses hold edge as acute care job market opens up

Demand for experienced nurses continues to grow, as vacancy rates have more than doubled in recent years at hospitals around the country. However, new graduates are increasingly competing with experienced nurses, according to an article at Nurse.com.

Nursing jobs in acute care hospitals are especially competitive. But there are still plenty of openings: A survey of 141 facilities nationwide found that nearly 25 percent of the hospitals reported a vacancy rate of 10 percent or higher in 2015, compared with only 5 percent in 2012, according to a 2015 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report published by NSI Nursing Solutions Inc.

Hospitals prefer nurses with at least two years of experience, as FierceHealthcare has reported. Because experienced nurses have the upper hand when competing for jobs in acute care settings, some nurse staffing agencies recommend new graduates build their experience by starting in outpatient clinics or group homes, according to the article. 

Still, there are hospital jobs for new graduates. Hospitals increasingly are creating nurse residency programs, similar to the skill-building experience of a physician residency. The residencies are highly competitive, according to the article, but the number is growing.

In addition, Nurse.com reported, hospital nursing jobs are opening as experienced nurses move into new roles such as nursing informatics, clinical documentation and community care. For example, most of the 252 nurse positions the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System filled in the 12-month period ending April 2015 were for nurses who left or moved into new roles at the hospital, according to the article.

With hospitals concerned about losing experienced nurses, many are starting to offer large signing bonuses to attract and keep experienced nurses. Nurses need to agree to stay at the hospitals a certain number of years to receive the bonuses. Bonuses are as high as $20,000 for nurses with highly desired skills such as labor and delivery or the catheterization lab.

To learn more:
- read the Nurse.com article
- here's the 2015 staffing report (.pdf)