Nursing school enrollment has dropped nationally by 21 percent in the past five years and the University has nearly mirrored the trend with a 15 percent decline in undergraduates during the same period.
This has implications for hospitals and other nursing centers as well as for the educational facilities the nurses attend.
The issue, which first appeared on the East and West coasts, is now also affecting the Midwest. University spokeswoman Sally Pobojewski said the number of job openings is up within the University Health System, which includes three hospitals as well as outpatient clinics.
This year the average number of positions available has risen from a previous average of between 75 and 100 openings to 150 openings.
“If we”re looking at a trend, we do have more openings now than we did before,” Pobojewski said. “It”s an issue we”re certainly taking very seriously here.”
She attributed the problem to the high demand for highly qualified and skilled nurses, as many hospitals are looking to hire top candidates.
“It”s taking longer to fill vacancies in specialty areas such as intensive care. All hospitals want to hire these people,” Pobojewski said.
The University Health System currently has a 7 percent vacancy, with 153 out of 2,200 positions open.
To recruit the best from the available pool and retain the current staff, Pobojewski said, the system is part of a program called “Becoming an Employer of Choice,” which is aimed at creating an environment in which people prefer to work.
The health system”s recruitment team is keeping tabs on national market trends and looking for new ways to find and keep the most qualified possible employees, she said.
School of Nursing Dean Ada Sue Hinshaw said she thinks the way to expand the applicant pool is to establish nursing as a profession open to both men and women with diverse backgrounds.
“Then we”ll see more people coming in to the profession,” she said.
“The major shortage issue for the school means a drop in enrollment and people who are going to be out there to take care of patients and families,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said women today have many career choices and are choosing to accept higher-paying jobs in fields like law, business and medicine instead.
National statistics agree, she said, as research shows the number of young women choosing nursing has dropped 38 percent in the past 25 years.
Hinshaw said the field should invite more male participation and that students as a whole don”t realize the opportunities nursing holds as a career.
“They picture someone who takes care of a patient in a hospital,” Hinshaw said. “That”s a very important part of what we do but there are also many other opportunities.”
Other options in the nursing field include working with schools or
community health, going to graduate school and providing primary care as a nurse practitioner, doing clinical research or starting a business.
She added that jobs are offering incentives from bonuses to flexible work schedules to higher pay rates for people interested in nursing and that now is a good time to get into the field.
“These grads are being wooed by major agencies around the country and that gives them lots of opportunities of where they want to go and what they want to do when they finish. You can pretty much name your own spot,” Hinshaw said.