High Demand in DFW Means New Nurses Are Getting Jobs, but Not Always the Ones They Want

High Demand in DFW Means New Nurses Are Getting Jobs, but Not Always the Ones They Want

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas)

June 08, 2009

Heather Meismer considers herself one of the lucky ones.

A recent graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington’s nursing program, she landed a job in the emergency room at Texas Health Resources Arlington Memorial Hospital and will begin a specialized residency program there this month.

“I like the adrenaline you get whenever you’re there,” said Meismer, who has been working in the hospital’s emergency room as a technician for the past year. “There’s always something different. It keeps the excitement up, and it keeps your mind constantly thinking.”

Many of her fellow nursing graduates were not so lucky. While demand for nurses remains strong in North Texas, many new graduates are finding it harder to step into first-choice assignments because of increased competition from experienced nurses and reduced turnover at hospitals.

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“A lot of my friends are actually having to do a few things that they more or less don’t want to do,” she said. “They didn’t get their first choice. But from what I understand, they all found jobs.”

Looking for jobs

Still, with the economy in Texas holding up better than across the country, nursing graduates continue to find a better job market here also.

At the five nursing programs in the area — UT-Arlington, Texas Christian University, Tarrant County College, Weatherford College and Southwestern Adventist University in Keene — students who want to work have found jobs by the time they graduate, according to school officials.

Although recent reports nationally have indicated a drop in demand for nurses because of the recession, Texas appears to have been spared the brunt of the decline.

In Texas, the number of hospital vacancies for registered nurses continued to climb even as the economy slowed down last year, with a vacancy rate of 11.2 percent compared with 8.6 percent in 2004, according to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies. Population growth is commonly cited as one reason behind the growth in nursing jobs. And with area job losses limited thus far, demand for hospital care has remained fairly steady.

The center estimates a shortfall of about 22,000 registered nurses across the state. Nationally, there are 799 for every 100,000 residents; in Texas, there are 671 per 100,000 population, according to the center.

Kirk King, president of Texas Health Arlington hospital and board chairman of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, said hospitals are continuing to hire new graduates in an effort to reduce their reliance on overtime and on nurses brought in through costly agencies.

“Right now, in the current economic times, everyone is being a little conservative with regard to the number of employees they bring on staff, and how they’re managing those employees,” he said. “But at the end of the day, our priority is filling positions that give direct patient care. I don’t know anyone who’s pulled back in that.”

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