MinnEcon note: Here's a post from my MPR colleague Mike Caputo:
North Memorial Health Care in Robbinsdale announced that it will either cut the hours or the positions of 170 people. The news comes a few weeks after Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) and Park Nicollet Health Services announced layoffs.
Since the recession started, Minnesota has cut 2,000 health care jobs.
And while institutions who are doing the cutting want to avoid the front-line workers, such as nurses, they are being nicked too. Park Nicollet cut 26 licensed practical nurses. HCMC has left nursing jobs unfilled and may be cutting some in this latest round. The Minnesota Nurses Association says that 100 of its members have lost jobs in 2009.
The layoffs are discouraging news to the 120 graduates from the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing. They grabbed their sheepskin on Friday. But only 25 of them have a job lined up.
Last year, all of the 130 or so graduates had jobs waiting for them when they graduated, said Connie Delaney, the U of M Nursing School dean.
Not long ago, hospitals were fighting over qualified graduates, offering hefty signing bonuses and other incentives to graduates.
Now students face competition for jobs, said Mary Rothchild of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, whose graduates account for about 80 percent of the new nursing pool in the state. In addition, many graduates thought it would be no problem to get into prized areas such as pediatric or surgical care, she said. But that's no longer the case.
This reality seems to conflict with the conventional wisdom that nursing, and other health care-related fields, are a safe-haven in a recession.
Well, yes and no.
In the short-term there is a noticeable drop in job vacancies for nursing positions, according to state figures. But state labor experts say the demand for nurses still beats that of most any other profession.
And, in the long-term, the need for more nurses will be great. Delaney says the explosion of medical need for baby boomers coupled with the advanced age of licensed nurses in Minnesota still means there will be a coming crisis in meeting the nursing demand in the future.
And she doesn't back off from the word - crisis.
So what should nursing applicants do?
Delaney and Rothchild say applicants should be flexible - take jobs in nursing home environments or in geriatrics. They should consider information health technology or be willing to move to other parts of the country to land positions.
In support of Delaney and Rothchild, the current employment environment is just Minnesota's deep breath before the plunge into a true nursing crisis.
The focus on the nursing crisis facing our state has been almost exclusively around positions in the hospital -- Minnesota needs to remember the demographic "boom" of older adults hitting our healthcare system, and the many rewarding careers available today in older adult services... specifically skilled care centers, assisted living, and home care.
A common hope of emerging nursing graduates may be a day shift at Children's Hospital, but the reality is where Minnesota needs their service most is in the many expanding arenas serving older adults.
Aging services has jobs today, and many more tomorrow for the best of the best nurses interested in working with older adults.