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New England survey offers hope for new grad RNs

Monday November 5, 2012
Pat Noga, RN
Pat Noga, RN
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Sharon Gale, RN
Nurse leaders in New England know it isnít easy for new RNs to find jobs, but they have some advice for those looking for work: Be flexible and be patient.

Their input comes after the recent release of a survey on hospital nurse staffing issues in Massachusetts conducted by the Massachusetts Hospital Association and the Organization of Nurse Leaders of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The survey showed a slight increase in the acute care hospital RN vacancy rate for the second consecutive year in 2011 to 3.9%. The vacancy rate at specialty hospitals in 2011 was 5.1%. New nurse grads have had difficulty finding employment, but there are ways to combat the tight job market and there is a hope on the horizon.

Pat Noga, RN, vice president of clinical affairs for the MHA, sees hope in the gradually improving vacancy rates. She also believes opportunities will blossom in the near future with the changes being created by healthcare reform. In the meantime, she suggests new grads should be open to all kinds of work possibilities.

"I really encourage them to continue to look at all the hospitals ... and donít be so specific about one particular type of position," Noga said. "Try to apply for whatever type of position that might be available that you think youíre somewhat qualified for and can be trained for, and also to consider long-term care and home care."

Sharing that opinion is Sharon Gale, RN, MSN, CEO of the ONL of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She said new grads also need to look at when they are willing to work. The 2011 survey showed that 26% to 30% of hospitals reported shortages on "off-shifts" that were several times greater than day-shift shortages.

"A lot of the vacancies are occurring on the evening and night shifts," Gale said. "To me, that says a lot of these younger people getting out of programs — the Gen Xís and the Gen Yís — they really value a work-life balance. They may not necessarily want to look at working the evening or night shifts; however, that may be an option for them to start a career."

Noga and Gale also believe the higher level of education an RN can attain will go a long way toward making a job search easier and helping an RN progress throughout his or her career.

"The grads getting out should look at career paths," Gale said, "(and) think about what they might want to do, not just for the next year or two, but really should chart their progress along a trajectory of continuing education."

Noga sees the rise of accountable care organizations and hospital networks as being beneficial to RNs.

She envisions new grads being hired by a system and having the opportunity to work in a variety of settings within that system.

"I think thereís going to be a lot of opportunities for the different types of settings one can work in within an ACO or network," Noga said. "For example, you could be hired to work in a rehab facility thatís affiliated with a network and gain some experience. And then there might be a position thatís open within the hospital portion of that network in that position. Thatís my personal vision for the future."

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.


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