Why you aren’t getting hired as a new nurse

June 1, 2013 in Job Hunt


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

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