Nursing shortage now could mean a lack of jobs for grads - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Nursing shortage now could mean a lack of jobs for grads

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A national survey finds nurses right out of school are struggling to find jobs. Here in Wisconsin, job placement is mixed.

The American Society of Registered Nurses says 43 percent of newly licensed RNs still don't have jobs within 18 months after graduation. Here in the Madison area, nursing schools have pretty good job placement, but students aren't necessarily finding the jobs they're hoping for in hospitals.

We've heard talk for years that with an aging population of baby boomers, a nursing shortage is inevitable, but with the recession sticking around workers are too. There are 77,000 licensed RNs in Wisconsin.

"A lot of nurses are choosing to stay employed," says Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association. "Our hospitals and our other healthcare systems are catching up to where the rest of industry businesses are."

Nurses are staying past retirement age and leaving fewer jobs open for new, graduating nurses.

A new workforce report from the Wisconsin Hospital Association found only 3 percent of RN hospital jobs are vacant in the state, but nursing education programs all over Wisconsin are at capacity, producing thousands of licensed RNs a year.

Many of those programs have good job placement for grads, like UW-Madison's School of Nursing and Madison College's associate degree program.

Surveying last year's nursing class at UW, nearly half had positions before graduation, and by October 80 percent of those who responded were working as an RN. 150 graduated in May.

UW employees who work with nursing alumni say they've had to cancel career fairs in years past because no one was hiring, but it's picked up in the last two years. They say most of their students graduating with bachelor's degrees are able to find jobs quickly.

Madison College's Associate Dean Kay Grotelueschen estimates about 80 percent of last year's 160 nursing graduates got jobs within six months of graduation, but says some of those students might not have gotten jobs in hospitals where hiring is down in many places.

"Graduates coming out of the nursing program want to work in the ICU, or want to work in the ER, or want to work in the hospital," says Grotelueschen. "What's happening is they may not find their perfect job right away, it may not be full time right away."

Grotelueschen predicts in time, healthcare providers will be in dire need of more nurses.

"Sooner or later the people have to retire, they're just waiting to see what's happening with the economy, and when they retire those positions are going to be open," she says.

Current nursing students are staying positive and keeping their options open.

"I think we do have a lot of opportunities around and anyone that I've talked to have not had a problem getting a job," says first year Madison College student Kim Dowling.

Others are getting their foot in the door by working for area hospitals in other capacities.

"It'll definitely help that I work there [the VA Hospital], and I know probably in the emergency department right now I would say half the staff could be retired within the next 10 years," says Ian Vande Velde, a first year Madison College nursing student. "It's ok if I don't have the perfect job right out of school, as long as I can get a job within 4-5 months or something like that."

27 News also contacted some of the major hospitals in our area about hiring practices.

UW Hospital recruiting officials plan to bring on 50 new nursing graduates in January and February and hire 100 more in the summer. They'll also hire some experienced nurses too, to staff the new health center and other expansions. That's way up from 2012, when just 30 new grads were hired, and 10 the year before.

An HR representative from St Mary's Hospital in Madison says they're seeing about the same number of nursing openings as last year. In 2012, the hospital hired about 20 fewer RNs than in 2011. Officials look for a balance of experienced and new nurses when hiring.

Both of those Madison hospitals say they're seeing many more new nursing graduates looking for work than is available.

St. Mary's in Janesville is also hiring nurses right now, but HR officials say their openings do require experience. The hospital just opened last January and officials say with such a new facility, they're seeking more qualified applicants. They plan to transition current employees into RN positions as they graduate nursing programs, and will hire new grads along the way.

A spokesperson for Mercy Hospital in Janesville says HR pulls a lot of their new employees from area technical colleges and help place recent graduates. Numbers on RN openings were not immediately available.

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