The statistics say it all. According to a recent study,  ‘36% of new nursing grads can’t find work 4 months after graduating’ and if you are looking in California, good luck! In the golden state, ‘43% of new grads are unable to find work 18 months after graduation’. It’s a tough job market. We all hear about how nurses “always” get jobs. There is supposed to be a shortage by 2020 and for many of us, this adage played a role in our career choice. Everyone is always surprised when I tell them it’s hard for new nurses to get jobs, and most of us just don’t understand why.

The issue boils down to 3 fundamental reasons:

1. More graduates and limited opportunities

Enrollment in nursing programs has increased over the past 3 years, with 10% more graduates last year than in 2009. Estimates from NCLEX testing predicts 10% more nurses graduating in 2013 than 2012. Existing academic institutions across the country are accepting more students, new programs are springing up and competition for jobs is continuing to get tougher.

On the other hand, hospitals are maintaining or decreasing numbers of new graduate hires. For hospitals, bringing a new grad up to speed is an expensive, lengthy and resource-intensive process. New grads require further education, strict supervision from preceptors, and take some time to get up to speed. This may be why many hospitals refuse to take on new grads or continue to keep their programs small.

2. Greater focus on specialization and specific roles

In the past, nurses were nurses. There was an emphasis on remaining a generalist as there was a lot of value in being flexible. In recent years, there has been a greater push towards specializing nursing care, which has since trickled down to nursing schools. The clinicals and practicums that you are assigned play an important role in your first job.

While we still have a lot to learn after completing nursing school, these experiences give hiring managers a look at where our skills and interests lie. Though the importance may be over-exaggerated, many times nurse managers will not pick those without past experience in their floor specialty. Even if you are qualified for the position, you many not get an interview just because you did not have the right clinical experience. It is frustrating to think that with all the work we put in, that something so small can be the difference. We must keep researching for more positions, keep looking for new hospitals and keep applying until the right opportunity comes our way!

3. The economic downturn and fewer retirements

The final reason for why getting a job as a new grad is hard has nothing to do with our profession. As a result of the financial crisis, hospitals are cutting back on expenses across the board. As more people lose jobs and houses, less people can afford medical bills.  This creates greater risk for the hospitals. Taking on new graduates in this environment is a risky proposal, as we are expensive and can’t hit the ground running from day one.

To compound matters, economic uncertainty means that everyone is concerned about their future. Fewer nurses are retiring and there are simply less positions available on each floor. As the economy has started to bounce back, this trend will likely reverse and more positions will open up. This is only a matter of time, though there are a lot of us still waiting out here!

Keep your head up, continue to revise your resume, sharpen your cover letters, talk to experienced nurses and practice your interviews.

Continue to follow our blog, we will provide guidance on many of these topics over the next few months.

Nursing Love <3

If you need more individualized help, feel free to head over to our premium career services page!


  1. Chiqui Raveloski says:

    These assessments on why new grads are not being hired are very true. It all boils down to economics. I have worked at hospitals for 25 years and have been a nurse for the past 6 years. I have seen the changes.

    I worked as a hospital pharmacy tech for 20 years and was going thru nursing school while working. I knew which area I wanted to work in so when I did my last semester of clinicals, I chose the floor I wanted to work in. Back then there was also a new grad internship program that I transitioned to after graduating and helped tremendously with landing the job I wanted in the hospital.

    I would really suggest that new grads start off in the medsurg/telemetry area. This is your basic yet most comprehensive area a nurse can learn a lot from. A new nurse can grow so much from this area and can eventually move into a more specialized unit as time goes by. Additionally, I find that there is more need in this area in hospitals. I now work as an ER case Manager too and majority of patients who gets admitted in the hospital go to these floors. I started off in the medurg/telemetry.

    You are also correct, less nurses are retiring leaving no space for hiring. And if hospitals do hire, they want someone with experience because of one thing, population shift. More and more patients coming in the hospitals are sicker, older, with higher acuity. This patients require more care than usual. More care = more time = more skills = more paperwork = more experienced nurse = the list goes on.

    With this said, hospital nursing is very tough and challenging. A lot of new nurses I have seen are leaving the area to pursue a less strenous job. But managers do not want to replace these positions with another new nurse. This leaves a position open for more experienced nurses. One thing to consider, hospitals are census driven. If a hospital has a low census, they send nurses/staff home or call them off from work. Then as census slowly creep up, staff are rotated or floated to other floors in need of manpower, keeping staffing within budget. This is why its very important to start with med/surg, it is where the bulk of patients are in the hospital.

    Keep on doing what your company is doing. We nurses appreciate everything you can do to support us.


  2. D says:

    Hospitals in NJ won’t touch ADN grads unless your already employed there Atlantic Health, St. Barnabas etc). Internships at the other hospitals are only for BSN students. So, bottom line, if you have an ADN and don’t already work in a hospital you are either out of work or in a nursing home. ADN’s who have their license for more than 6 months don’t qualify for Hire Learner or internships, even if they are pursuing the BSN. Sad.

  3. Emily E Smith says:

    Very interesting article! I was wondering if you could tell me the study you mentioned that listed the job prospects for new grads. Thanks!

    • admin says:

      The 36% national statistic came from a 2011 survey conducted by the NSNA while the 43% California statistic came from a separate 2011 study by the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care.


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