Each May and into June, numerous schools of nursing around the country release their new graduates into the world. Most of these graduates enter their working career through a hospital, often one with which they affiliated during school. During the past several years, we have enthusiastically welcomed these new graduates into the work force and into our organizations. Yes, these are the usual activities in which we engage.
Even amidst a continued prediction of a shortage, however, the world has turned. No longer can new graduates identify their preferred hospital, clinical area, or shift. Jobs still exist; they simply may not be where the graduate is. This is unusual. Here are a couple of things to consider as we continue on our roller coaster ride.
- Although many organizations may have a hiring freeze, new graduates will still emerge; and some of them cannot relocate to another area.
- Failure to hire at least some new graduates every year can affect the perception of the organization as a desirable place to consider for employment.
- Failure to continue some stream of less experienced nurses to interplay with those with more experience can result in an unbalanced work force (the balance of experienced to inexperienced).
- If the economy changes drastically for the positive, those nurses who delayed retirement or returned to work may choose to resign or decrease their hours, leaving organizations with insufficient or inexperienced staff.
These challenges are among those that we who provide “post entry into the profession” education face. Although most of us do not make the hiring decisions, we live with the consequences. Our challenge is to figure out what we can be doing in this “down” time to protect the investment of our work to date and enhance our prospects for what we will do when the economy changes. Starting and stopping work is one of the most disruptive forces—for the organization itself and for its prospective and current employees. Because we are all invested in the success of new graduates (especially the new graduates and their significant others), our challenge right now is to find creative ways to be relevant to them, even if we are not serving as their primary employer.
In difficult economic times, some organizations choose to make dramatic cutbacks. In fact, some must because some organizations are in dire situations. Others, however, examine ways to streamline work and to continue developing the existing work force. Still others find ways to engage the emerging work force because they have taken the long view of the situation and may have been wiser in their financial decisions. Those decisions are also not within our control. However, we have sufficient evidence from numerous sectors that we cannot afford to ignore those who are emerging into their professions. Making a case for a continued orientation program when there really is no need to orient anyone because no positions exist is an example of where we are in thinking about what we can do in this economy. Finding ways to partner with organizations half a continent away because they have the jobs now and need help now is an example of how we can think in challenging new ways.
As Gladwell (2008) points out in his latest book, Outliers, it takes about 10,000 hours to be proficient. In full-time work, that is about 4.5 years. So, what we do today has the potential to dramatically affect what organizations will be able to do by 2015. If new graduates cannot find suitable work somewhere and feel supported educationally, they may leave the field completely. That would pose even greater issues for a profession that is predicted to continue with a deficit of practitioners into 2020 and beyond. Each of us can ask the following question: What can I do now that will make a difference for nursing and our stability as an important work force in the United States? These are unusual times and yet usual expectations remain. We have new work to do.
Patricia S. Yoder-Wise, RN, EdD, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN
- Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Little, Brown and Company.