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The job market for nursing continues to heat up despite the sluggish economy. Employment of RNs is expected to grow by 26% from 2010 to 2020, creating 711,900 new jobs to go with hundreds of thousands of replacement jobs of retiring nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This makes nursing one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., although the BLS warns jobs may vary by specialty and geographic setting. 2010 median pay was found to be $64,690 annually, or $31.10 per hour.

Along with this growth is the emergence of social media as a job-hunting tool, a phenomenon that could either help or hurt an RN’s chances of landing a new job, recruiters say.

Cyberspace pros & cons

An independent national survey conducted by Harvey Research between December 2010 and January 2011 and commissioned by showed that 34% of RNs applied for jobs online within the past year. More than half of the respondents had searched online to find their next positions. About 52% noted jobs boards such as’s are their preferred websites for job searches. Only referrals by friends and co-workers rated slightly higher (5.7%) than Web-based jobs pages (5.4%) as RNs’ most important source when conducting job searches.

But with the widespread growth of online job searching comes an increase in healthcare facilities’ using social media, albeit cautiously, to investigate potential employees. Facebook and Twitter accounts, for instance, can pose equal-opportunity legal issues, said Judy Shorr, RN, MS, CHCR, nurse recruiter for Seattle Children’s Hospital and committee member for the National Association of Health Care Recruitment.

A Facebook page typically shows the race, age and sex of a candidate — all areas that could lead to discrimination lawsuits if the candidate is not offered a position and knows a recruiter viewed the page.

Recruiters are not allowed to inquire about certain other information that could be found on social media sites. If a Facebook page hints a candidate is an expectant mother and she is not hired, she might be able to sue the recruiter and facility for not hiring her because of a possible pregnancy. Candidates are protected from these types of discrimination by federal laws, according to a white paper on recruiting and social network sites by EmployeeScreenIQ, an employment screening company based in Cleveland.

“We tweet a few jobs, but that’s about all we use social media for,” Shorr said. “From a legal perspective, how you use information from social media is not without controversy and potential trouble. I’ve heard attorneys say case law isn’t there yet, but there will be lawsuits.”

Despite the legal issues, many recruiters explore social media pages. According to a poll by ExecuNet, an executive career site, 77% of hiring managers use social media sites to check out job candidates, and a quarter have eliminated candidates based on what they found on the pages.

Recruiters say job candidates should make sure privacy settings are set on their social media pages so only confirmed friends can view their sites. As an added precaution, they should remove photos or comments from the sites that could be perceived as unprofessional. Another strategy is to have a public professional Facebook page and a private page with security intact for friends and family.

To avoid equal-opportunity issues and still take advantage of social media, the recruiters at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have been certified in Internet recruitment through AIRS, a national recruiting, training and outplacement service company, said Valarie Amos, RN, recruitment manager at Northwestern. “AIRS training teaches recruiters how to identify candidates using an X-ray method to penetrate organizations and professional groups and affiliations to source qualified candidates,” she said. “They also focus on the potential legal issues surrounding the use of social media — what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.”

BayCare Health System, which operates 10 nonprofit hospitals throughout the Tampa Bay (Fla.) area, relies on a social media policy to guide the use of recruitment initiatives, said Pam Callaway, RN, manager of regional recruitment. “Some of our recruiters may use professional networking sites … to help identify passive candidates,” she said.

Professional social media and job sites are fair game among recruiters.’s redesigned website, available in mid-July, will allow nurses to manage their career portfolios on profile pages that include their work and education histories, certifications, professional memberships, contacts and more. Profile users will select various privacy settings to allow — or deny — searches of their career information by recruiters and schools of nursing. In addition, users can post, store and update their resumes.

Even the old-fashioned legwork for contacting references has a new high-tech spin to it with services that collect data from references, then aggregate them to create a candidate snapshot. This practice protects the references, as no remarks can be linked directly back to them. Seattle Children’s has started using SkillSurvey for this reference function, Shorr said. “The service allows references to rate someone on a continuum in five categories,” she said. “It takes just 10 minutes for them to fill out. We’ve found it’s better than talking to them. It gives an apples-to-apples response to the exact same questions. It’s revolutionized the whole reference process.”

Buckle down for re-entry

Job hunting after a period away from the profession presents another layer of challenges. For RNs who have left the workforce but want to return to nursing, recruiters advise hitting the books first. “They absolutely need a refresher course,” Shorr said. “They are competing with new grads whose skill set is still current.”

Shorr advised nurses not to leave the workforce completely if they need time for family or other personal issues in their life. “Work a day a week to keep your skills current,” she said. “If you leave the workforce for many years, it’s a tough road to get back in.”

In addition to classroom work, clinical experience is vital to get caught up. “Nobody’s going to want to hire somebody who hasn’t had clinical experience,” Shorr said. “You need to be in a clinical setting and see the new equipment, procedures, etc.”

Re-entering the workforce is a tough mountain to climb, but it can be done, Amos said. “Two years ago, we hired a nurse who had been out of nursing for 20 years,” she said. “She came in and presented herself well.”

The nurse took a professional nursing exam course refresher for a semester at a city college and has been thriving in one of the intermediate care units ever since, Amos said. “Now she’s able to mentor our newer graduates,” she said.

Resumes: common missteps

Step one in any successful job search still is an impressive resume, but the rules aren’t as rigid as they once were. “Every day I see a variety of resumes,” Callaway said. “Each candidate is different and there is no particular norm.”

Callaway suggested the most important aspect to writing an effective resume is to tie experience and education to the job the candidate is seeking. “Use an objective statement or a cover letter and explain your qualifications and how they match the position you are applying for,” she said.

While resumes for management positions often require several pages to cover work experience, Shorr said resumes for most positions do not need such detail and should be limited to one or two pages. “You don’t have to list everything you do in every job you’ve worked,” she said. “I also see all sorts of personal information that doesn’t belong there. Nobody’s going to spend more than a few minutes reading a resume.”

Shorr said prioritizing is key to a good resume. “I want to know where you went to school, your degree and what jobs you have had, presented succinctly,” she said.

Candidates can use cover letters to distinguish themselves from others and show particular interest in a job, Shorr said. “A cover letter can bring life to a resume,” she said. “Tell some things about yourself that jump off the page.”

If a candidate’s passion is pediatric nursing, the nurse should tell, in detail, how that came to be and describe experience in that area, including schooling, work and volunteer experiences. “Include what sorts of things make you stand out as a candidate and make you more competitive than other folks,” Shorr said.

Email addresses should reflect professional status — even if that entails opening a new email account specifically for job-seeking, Shorr advised.

“There are way too many candidates using cute email addresses,” she said. “Also, make sure your voice mail message doesn’t have loud, blaring music or a particular message that wouldn’t enhance your candidacy.” •

Teresa McUsic is a freelance writer.


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