Will the New Grads Want You Later?

February 15

Years of work trying to increase the number of new graduate RNs have left many in a frustrated state. For the last 10 years, organizations, associations and HC recruiters have worked hard to pique interest in nursing as a career choice. Led by Johnson & Johnson, major strides were taken and results were seen all across the nation as enrollments began to rise each year after 2005. Healthcare recruiters did their part to make sure they visited junior and senior high schools, provided collateral to teens and their parents and worked with educational systems to increase class sizes, often by sharing educators. Then - things drastically changed.

By 2025, the United States is going to be short 260,000 RNs and we must accept some responsibility for keeping these new grads in the profession and hopeful for the future. New graduates have shared some interesting stories of how they have been treated by HR professionals, including a recorded message that clearly states, "We have no jobs for new graduate RNs," to a recruiter explaining, "Come back when you get two years' experience." This is the reality of 2009.

The first change we saw centered on school availability and with the average age of an educator in a nursing program 55+ years of age, recruitment of new educators has been difficult. Younger generations enjoy working three 12-hour shifts per week and receiving higher pay in the clinical areas. As a result, they aren't interested in working five days per week in the educational system. This issue, along with limited clinical experience locations, has helped produce waiting lists in most of the RN programs around the nation. This dilemma is long-term and one that must be addressed in order to fill the educator pipeline.

When the economic crisis began approximately 18 months ago, it brought new issues for the new graduate RN. Per diem and part-time RNs often went to full-time because a spouse lost a job. With millions of people experiencing job losses (including layoffs at 50% of healthcare organizations) more people became uninsured and didn't seek medical care until absolutely necessary and patient acuity increased. Census in many hospitals was down, elective surgeries postponed and uncompensated care rose dramatically.

These economic issues sent a real strong message to new grads - We don't need you! New grad preceptorships were put on hold and organizations that often hired 100 new grads per year were now hiring as few as ten. What happened to the other 90? In most cases, they were ignored or told they weren't needed and often became more frustrated that they had chosen a profession where they thought they could write their own ticket, only to find themselves and many of their classmates still unemployed a year after graduation.

There are some things that we can suggest to new grads or things we can be doing while they continue to look for jobs. These may include:

  1. Enhancing or adding a student section on your website for graduates to maintain communication and stay updated on hiring needs
  2. Hiring the top candidates for another position within the hospital
  3. Suggesting they might consider moving to another state for a year or two and then return home; (there are states that are still hiring new grads.)
  4. A company Facebook page for new grad interaction
  5. Sponsor a lunch, or other social event, once or twice a year to keep the lines of communication open
  6. Invite them to the hospital for a workshop or seminar
  7. Develop preceptorships in areas where new grads aren't normally hired, like home health. (Federal funding has been available for selected programs)
  8. Opt-in newsletter
  9. Develop a new grad refresher course for RNs that have been without work for a year or more and are still looking for their first professional position
  10. Encourage online forums or groups on sites such as LinkedIn targeting topics such as job search
  11. Consider using one of these new grads in a "social" role or internship to provide insight into how you can resonate with this audience

Anything that an organization can do to maintain ongoing, useful communication will give the future applicants a decent chance for a positive experience with your company. Even if the economic turnaround won't allow us to hire all the new grads out there in 2010, it is important to continue to network and stay in touch. They are an important part of the future of healthcare and we must do our part to keep them in the profession. We will need them someday and we can't be shortsighted!

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