Nurses A year of more labor strife?
First industry officials complained there weren’t enough nurses. Then nursing school graduates complained there weren’t enough jobs, and they attended school for nothing. Those two issues haven’t exactly been put to rest in the past year, and it doesn’t look as if 2012 will pose many solutions. Anecdotes from recent nursing school grads conflict with the work of researchers. A study published in December in the policy journal Health Affairs revealed job opportunities exist, as the largest cohort of nurses ever, ages 23 to 26, have joined the workforce. From 2002 to 2009, 165,000 nurses from that age bracket joined the working ranks, surpassing the cohort from 1956. Researchers say that number will continue to grow.
Uncle Sam received much of the credit for the increased opportunities, with an influx of federal grants offered to expand nursing schools and to help with tuition costs. However, there are still stories from recent nursing school graduates frustrated that they can’t find jobs, acknowledges Geraldine “Polly” Bednash, CEO and executive director of the Washington-based American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Competition for admittance in accelerated nursing school programs aimed at students already with careers in other industries will likely continue. Bednash also says there’s an increased preference by employers for better-qualified nurses. That’s why four-year Bachelor of Science nursing programs will remain popular.
“We’re going to continue to see the demand,” Bednash says.
But even as nurses and researchers try to figure out which way the industry’s workforce is trending, another theme emerged, one likely to spread further throughout the country in the coming year.
While nurses say their preference is to avoid them, one-day strikes started popping up from California to New York, and the word “strike” is no longer a dirty term in the lexicon of the healthcare worker.
While hospital officials prefer to keep labor negotiations private, to avoid a fight where nurses could appear as sympathetic figures in the public’s eye, says Anthony Rizzotti, a healthcare attorney in the Boston law offices of Littler Mendelson, they won’t have as much control in 2012.
“The nurses unions in the past agreed not to use strikes as a weapon,” he says. “But