Recession slows demand for nurses


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As recently as just two years ago, College of Marin nursing school graduates had Bay Area medical facilities clamoring for their services. Then, the job market became as lifeless as the mannequins on which the nursing students practice.

"The economy has caused people to lose their health insurance -- so hospitals are seeing fewer patients, people are putting off surgeries, they are putting off health care that they need," said Roz Hartman of College of Marin Health Sciences.

Hospitals are also seeing delays in reimbursement for their services leading them to hold off on filling positions that are open. The jobs that are available generally go to experienced nurses.

"What's happened is many nurses have gone back to work because either their spouse has lost a job, they have lost health insurance, or there is a fear that their spouse will lose a job," said Hartman.

As of last summer, there was a nationwide shortage of about 125,000 nurses -- that's gone, as are the dreams of some nursing students.

"I would like to be in critical care somewhere in the emergency department -- preferably that's a place to start, but the reality is, I'll be pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, trying to make myself look hireable," said nursing student Stephanie Rossman.

Student Sonya Gordon is foregoing specializing in labor and delivery.

"So there is other places that we need to look for employment and have flexibility, and as far as which shift we take, what floor we take," said Gordon.

Marin-born and raised Aaron Hubbard is one of hundreds of candidates for a single opening in Los Angeles.

"Southern California is beautiful, if that's where the job is, that is where I'm going to go," said Hubbard.

It may look bleak, but there's a good long-term prognosis. It's estimated that in five years there will be a big nursing shortage.

"There's a huge shortage predicted between, depending on what you read, anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million nurses will be needed," said Hartman.

Melissa Ahern is hoping for a better job market for her class of 2010.

"Unfortunately they give us this idea that 'there is a shortage of nurses, there is a shortage of nurses,' but when it comes right down to it, budget really dictates hiring. So, I just hope that resurrects itself when I graduate and there's a job for me," said Ahern.

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