Nurses, Summits, and Salt Lake: The Challenges Facing New Nursing Grads

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

I’m attending the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) annual convention, in Salt Lake City, Utah. I always gripe about meetings here—but then I arrive and realize I’d forgotten what a beautiful place it is. For one thing, there are the mountains rising up behind the cityscape—everywhere you look, there they are. (The photo here was taken from the plane as it was approaching Salt Lake City.)  There’s something really relaxing about these views.

I always enjoy this conference—I love meeting the future generation of nurses. This year’s group—about 2,400 strong—are enthusiastic, passionate, and serious about a career, not just a job. Many are people who’ve already been in the workforce. According to figures from the NSNA about the attendees, 47% are 26 or older, 22% are 36 or older, 52% will be graduating from baccalaureate programs, and 93% plan to continue their education. Impressive statistics.

Yesterday’s keynote speaker was Patrick Hickey, a professor at University of South Carolina–Columbia School of Nursing, who has summited the seven highest peaks in the world. He spoke about the challenges of his climbs, especially Mount Everest, where he spread the ashes of a friend who was supposed to have been with him. It was fitting—here, with mountains all around us, and with many in the audience facing their own uphill climb to find a job (for one new nurse’s advice on what not to say to a recent graduate in search of a job, read the April Viewpoint column in AJN, “I Answered the Call—Now Please Give Me a Job”).

Many of the students I spoke with who are graduating in May are finding it difficult to even get an interview. A few said they may have to “do something else” until a nursing job opens up. I’m concerned that if that happens, they won’t come back to nursing.

We—those currently working in some capacity as nurses—need to find creative ways to keep these prospective nurses engaged in the profession, if not with a job right now, then with some kind of program that keeps them in some way involved. If you have such a program at your facility or school, write to me at or submit a short piece about it so others might replicate it.

I hope to speak with several of the students, and will share their stories in upcoming posts.

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2016-11-21T13:13:35+00:00 April 7th, 2011|Nursing|7 Comments
Editor-in-chief, AJN


  1. Terri January 9, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Interesting to read the post concerning new grads. The same applies for experienced/educated nurses arriving from other locations. 30 plus years clinical experience…ICU, med/surg./ infectious disease & others, (2) masters. The interviews are abundant with 8-10 applicants competing for one position. All tend to be internal hires, so interviewing is often a waste of time as the ‘internal’ is chosen. Facility is posting external and interviewing only to fulfill policy requirements. Twenty-three performance based interviews later with various medical facilities SLC, one insurance company, (2) universities, (1) physicians office, plus numerous networking emails, F2F contacts, pleading for mentoring opportunities in clinical/education I still remain an unemployed nurse. Proactively nurse graduates should seek employment opportunities outside the state. Similar events have occurred in other states eventually leading to severe shortages. With the advent of retiring baby boomers…SLC should rethink strategies/ways to prepare for the future trend. Solution – strive to keep and value the new graduates, plus the experienced ‘newcomers.’

  2. T.W. Hennings September 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I am a new grad who is looking out of state simply because the only interviews I have had so far have been at hospitals I have never visited. I simply can’t find anything local atm in places that I volunteer or in places where I know the people… They simply aren’t hiring new grads. Worse, the websites and nurse recruiters all say the same thing, “keep trying”, “look next month”, “we are currently discussing hiring new grads”, yet talking to HR, they haven’t hired a new grad in 3 years. I feel honest feedback would serve me far better… say your not hiring… but the dangling carrot has lost a lot of luster :(… if I “need” to go back to my old career, It’s not something I will be returning from. Think about it, if I can’t find work while I am fresh, how will I be more hirable after a couple years in my old career? Networking has been the only thing generating leads for new grad positions and my friends have been working hard on their managers for opportunities. How can burn out be such a risk for a career your not even in yet! I really hope some good ideas get implemented soon…

  3. Beth Toner April 12, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    I’m a second-career grad-with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and 20 years of experience in another field-and I have had to stick with my first career job and work as a pool RN at a local long-term care facility. I love both jobs, but I want to be a NURSE! and it is hard to feel competent and gain experience when you can only work very part-time at nursing!

  4. Shawn Kennedy April 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    While the market has been tough, you should know that at the NSNA meeting I attended, the exhibit hall was filled with recruiters. And we’ve seen recruitment ads in AJN picking-up, too, so things may be beginning to ease up. Stick with it – we need you! And Carrie Hughes has great advice about networking.

  5. Carrie Hedges April 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

    I also thought that getting hired as a new grad RN would be as easy as taking candy from a baby. But I soon learned that I would have to employ all of the sophisticated job-seeking skills I acquired in my first career, newspaper writing. Back then, we were told from the beginning that it would be very hard to find a job in newspapers. I learned quickly that good networking skills can produce great results. Make friends in nursing school. Keep up with them after you graduate. If they have jobs, ask them if there are any openings where they work and if they will put in a good word for you. I got lucky quickly: a nursing school friend who was employed as a tech in the hospital where I wanted to work recommended me and I was hired a month before I graduated in December 2008. Recently I helped a good friend of mine from nursing school — who had been searching for a hospital job for almost 2 years — get a job on my unit after my director asked me if I knew anyone who was interested in a job. Who you know does matter. Networking is the key. Be patient and don’t give up.

  6. Aminah Adeyemo April 8, 2011 at 5:11 am

    The situation here in nigeria is even worse.Its easier for a nurse who has diploma in nursing to get a job than for a graduate nurse. Many graduate nurses are underemployed. We talk about pursuing higher degrees in nursing to improve professionalism. Nurses are not encouraged to do so. We talk about nurses shortage and brain drain, yet, many are un/underemployed. Its hightime something is done about this issue

  7. Carol April 8, 2011 at 3:56 am

    What is it about new grad nurses not being able to find jobs while Staff nurse 1 with only 6 months of experience are able to find jobs though they themselves still require training?

    I feel as if new grad RN’s are being looked upon as inadequate. They are missing on what new grads can bring into the table. Many of them are visionaries, full of ideas and enthusiasm.

    Are there research studies that shows that new grad’s are really much more costly to train over a staff nurse 1 with only 6 months of experience?
    Or are there studies that shows that new grad RN’s were still unsafe practitioners after training for 90 days just as how long a new hire would orient/train at a new job?

    It is truly ridiculous how there is a claim of nursing shortage when there are many out there who are seeking employment. If no one is willing to give new grads a job, how will they get their experience?

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