Nursing graduates face tough job market

Healthcare may be one of the few industries that is consistently adding jobs during the recession, but nursing school graduates in at least one state have to work harder to find employment. Several years ago, most nursing students in North Carolina received multiple job offers before graduation. But that "outrageously wonderful" employment picture has faded, says Tina Gordon, chief executive at the North Carolina Nursing Association.

Job placements at Charlotte-based nursing schools tell the statewide story. Once upon a time, seniors at the Carolinas College of Health Sciences typically had 100 percent job placement by graduation, says Ellen Sheppard, president of the school, which is part of Carolinas HealthCare System. Last year, roughly 20 percent of graduates had jobs by May and about 80 percent had jobs by November. Presbyterian Healthcare operates a nursing school with Queens University of Charlotte. In 2008, Presbyterian offered jobs to 120 graduating students. In 2009, that number dropped to 67. Nursing students at Central Piedmont Community College "all find jobs eventually," says Ruth Hedgpeth, associate dean for health programs. "It just may not be the job they wanted."

Why the slowdown? Older nurses aren't retiring or changing jobs as quickly as they did before the recession. In addition, hospitals and other healthcare providers are hiring more judiciously. Before the recession, Carolinas HealthCare often over-hired new nurses so there would be extras to slot in as needed, but that practice has ended, says Sheppard.

The current "holding pattern" isn't permanent, says Hedgpeth. However, the slowdown could continue at least in part for two to three years, says Sheppard.

To learn more about the nursing employment picture:
- read the Charlotte Business Journal article