For years, we've been hearing about how Jersey had a nursing shortage. But now, word is many nursing graduates are struggling to find employment in their profession.

Flickr User Timefornurses
Flickr User Timefornurses

Pat Barnett, the CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association, says this is happening for a couple of reasons.

"One is, when you look back 15 years, we had a hundred hospitals - today we have seventy - and it is anticipated there will be even fewer hospitals in the future. 60 percent of all nurses are employed in hospitals, so when you have fewer hospitals, you have fewer nursing positions."

She says we also have the economic downturn.

Fewer Nurses Retiring in Difficult Economy

"When the economy went south, a lot of nurses who normally would have retired did not retire - and many of those who worked part-time or who had retired-were experienced nurses - went back to work because in their family perhaps, their spouse was laid off, there may have been other financial challenges."

Nevertheless, Barnett stresses, "We strongly believe as the economy improves, more and more older nurses will retire…The average age of a nurse is in their 50's, and one director of nursing told me a quarter of her operating room nurses were 65 and old - one was 75 and she's still working 12-hour shifts."

She says, "My biggest concern is what do we do with those nurses who graduated last year who couldn't find jobs, those who graduated this year who couldn't find jobs…I'm concerned we'll lose them from nursing…The challenge that a new graduate who comes out with a two year degree right now is that many hospitals are asking for at least a BSN degree - so it's important for nurses to look at their long-term goals - because if we have a nursing exodus we'll have another major shortage in the years to come…Instead of only looking for a job in a hospital, nursing grads need to expand their horizons…That might mean working in long term care, it could mean working for the Red Cross, it could mean - I'm going to go back to school and take out additional debt, but I'll be more employable with a 4 year degree - nursing is still a great career ."

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