No big bounceback in nursing job openings

Nursing has long been viewed as recession-proof. No matter how bad the economy, we've been told, the demand for registered nurses would be consistent and yawning.

The Great Recession showed that's not the case.

The recession slashed job vacancies in Minnesota by more than 75 percent. Openings have recovered somewhat. But like other sectors of Minnesota's economy the recovery is not great and nowhere near pre-recession levels.

Registered nurse openings at the end of 2010 remained down more than 50 percent from the start of the recession. Recently released job vacancy data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development showed openings flattening at that lower rate.

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Here's the trend, including the most recent data for the second quarter of 2011.

What's happening? Health care facilities -- like every other business since the start of the recession -- are trying to hold down costs. And older nurses are putting off retirement in the tough economic times, limiting the number of job openings.

Our concern remains the significant number of people like Curt Peterson who went back to nursing school at community colleges for two-year degrees thinking they would get great paying super flexible jobs at hospitals. Those jobs dried up and as the economy recovers hospitals will be able to choose RNs with bachelors degrees from the pool of RNs still seeking jobs.

Associate's degree graduates may find jobs, but they're more likely to be at assisted care facilities and clinics, which generally pay much less than hospitals and have less flexible schedules.

So, if you were a mid-career person in the Great Recession who thought you could get more money and better working conditions by going back to school for two years to become a nurse, you might be seriously disappointed.