Sunday, February 14, 2010

Recession cuts nursing shortage

FORT WORTH, Texas — A few years ago, hospitals were offering nurses $10,000 signing bonuses, loan payoffs, even cars as incentives to battle a nursing shortage in Texas.
Today, some nursing school graduates say they're fortunate to find a job.

"It took me a year to find something, and it wasn't easy," said Ann Karl, who graduated in 2008 and recently went to work for Huguley Memorial Medical Center in Burleson, Texas. "I think I must have hit the curve right when the hospitals were starting to slow down on hiring."

Karl is hardly alone.

Three years ago there were three job offers for every graduate, said Dr. Pamela Frable, director of nursing at Texas Christian University's Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences. But at graduation last summer, there were more students without a job than ever before.

A surge of applicants from nursing schools and from other states, as well as older nurses returning to the work force, has increased competition for jobs, especially at the area's large hospitals.

Graduates are sending out hundreds of resumes, scouring hospital Web sites and bemoaning a crisis they never expected: a shortage of jobs in a profession once hailed as recession-proof.

Feeling disillusioned

Cassie Thompson left a career as a financial analyst to become a nurse only to start classes at TCU as rumors of hiring freezes at area hospitals were swirling.

"It was really scary last summer, having come from a job that I knew I would have a paycheck until I retired, to this," said Thompson, who switched to nursing because she thought it would be more satisfying. "But some of my instructors have predicted that it will be better next year."

Just a few years ago, the promise of job security, career satisfaction and a good salary attracted plenty of people from less stable fields.

Karl was one of them. After 15 years in banking, she turned to nursing. But when she finished her studies in Dallas and applied for an internship, the shortage of opportunities disappointed her.

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