Nursing students face more competition

1:27 AM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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Amanda Smith and Allison Fox will graduate from South College nursing school this spring

Just a few years ago many employers in the nursing industry couldn't fill jobs quickly, ckly enough.

However, a national study now points to a change in job competition for newly graduated nurses.

According to a survey from the American Society of Registered Nurses, about 43 percent of newly licensed RNs cannot find work 18 months after graduation. A CNN article cites lack of experience, more competition, and a larger workforce as the reasons.

Registered nurse Brittany Smith graduated in May 2012 with an associate's degree from Roane State Community College. She started applying for positions ahead of graduation in March, but it took until October until she landed a job.

"Some people just want years of experience and I didn't have that," Smith said. "Someone really just had to take a chance."

She now works as a floor nurse at Parkwest Medical Center in West Knoxville. Smith advises other nurses to use their time in school to make strong professional connections.

"In East Tennessee alone, there are tons of schools that let out RNs every spring, it is really competitive in this area," she said.

Amanda Smith and Allison Fox will graduate from South College nursing school in just a few months, and both are slightly nervous about the increased job competition.

"Everywhere you go to any hospital's website it says two years experience, five years experience," says Smith, referring to job applications. "It is going to be tough once we get out there."

Dean of South College's Nursing Program, Ruth Elliott, says interest in the field of nursing has increased significantly in recent years.

"There was a time when the nursing shortage was really impacting the clinical agencies, but now it's probably a little more difficult for graduates to get a job."

Elliott says South College's job placement numbers remain high, near 100 percent for the students actively looking for employment following graduation. The program's enrollment has steadily increased since its start in 2005, with around 80 students currently.

As Smith and Fox finish their degrees, they will spend their next few weeks in "preceptorship," or hands-on training at different medical centers.

"We're really excited that, we're almost there," Smith said. "But at the same time, we're really nervous because now is the time we actually get out there and show what we know, show them that we're responsible and that we can do it and that we're going to be a great nurse."

"There's always going to be a need. It is just a matter of where the need is and what they need, as far as experience," said Brittany Smith, who is now working to complete her bachelor's degree at the University of Tennessee.

One day, she hopes to return to school and continue her education.

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