The current nursing job market is quite complex and changing every day. Although there was no shortage of nursing jobs just a few years ago, the current sluggish economy has made the search challenging. Nurses at all stages of their careers should be vigilant about changes in the job market, and target their job searches accordingly.

“The job market for nurses has changed tremendously over the past couple of years,” Deona Ryan, RN, CLC, LNC, director of women and children services at the Summerville Medical Center in Summerville, S.C., said in an interview. “The economy has really slowed down hiring, and allowed hiring managers to become more selective.”

Ryan oversees nurse hiring for the women and children’s units at her hospital, and is experienced hiring nurses at all skill levels and stages of their careers. She also works with nursing students to mentor them on the importance of professionalism throughout their careers.

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“I hire everyone from executive-level nurse managers down to entry-level patient care technicians,” Ryan said. “It used to take forever to fill a single open nurse position, but now I often get 60 applications for one opening.”

Because of this Ryan can afford to be highly selective of potential job candidates. “You used to see job postings that said ‘BSN Preferred,’ and now you see ‘BSN Required.’ We want more education and more experience, and these days we can get it.”

Job candidates who possess additional skill and certifications, such as patient care experience and certifications in OB/GYN nursing and basic cardiac life support also have better chances of being hired. Although, Ryan said she prefers hiring nurses with at least some experience she said new graduates with leadership have an advantage among applicants with less experience.

First impressions are also important. “I’m very interested in how nursing job candidates present themselves. I want them to come to interviews in business attire, not in scrubs or sweats,” she said. “I look for candidates who understand the importance of productivity in the hospital and how to interact with colleagues and patients.”

While finding a nursing job might not be as easy as it was just a few years ago, nurses still enjoy robust job growth compared to other professions. Between 2008 and 2018, there will be an estimated 3.2 million nursing jobs, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 518,500 of which are expected to be new jobs – a 22% increase. Of those new jobs, the largest proportion will be in physicians’ offices (48%), followed by home health nursing jobs (33%), and nursing homes positions (25%).1

While hospital-based nursing jobs will continue to increase, they will do so at a lower rate. “We encourage nurses who are having trouble finding employment to look beyond their local hospital,” a spokesperson from the American Nursing Association said. “Be prepared to search beyond your local community, and also look at non-hospital settings.”

These can include jobs in public health, the government and in the community. Recent health care legislation has also presented opportunities, via federal grants, for nurse NPs to become leaders in innovative primary care via independent clinical practices, the organization advised.

Jill Elaine Hughes is a freelance medical writer.


1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: Registered Nurses. Accessed March 4, 2011.