Nursing job prospects
by Zoey Duncan
Mount Royal University nursing students are learning that a lot of education only goes a little way in this tight job market. Like other job-seekers, nursing students are facing a shortage of job opportunities this summer. Compounding that shortage is the restructuring of Alberta Health Services (AHS) into an amalgamated entity that has few jobs available to those not already working in the system.
“A few years ago we were getting postings that would say vacancies: 100,” said Patsy Valenzuela, supervisor for Career Services on campus. “Or, we would get lots that were local as well as the smaller towns and especially the smaller health regions that used to exist.”
Valenzuela said there have been instances this year when there were absolutely no postings on the job board from AHS, and no health care boards attended the career fair to recruit nurses this year. Adding to the frustration of the job search is the publicized lack of nurses in the province.
“The messages about a nursing shortage in the country and globally continue and they’re really strong messages of having a nursing shortage,” said Pam Nordstrom, director of the school of nursing at Mount Royal University. “So, it seems incongruent with the messages that Alberta Health Services has — that they don’t have positions, or that they’re not hiring externally. I can’t interpret those messages…because they seem quite inconsistent with each other.”
The demographics of current nurses and the population as a whole suggest that there will be an increased need for nurses over the next one to five years, according to the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA). Mary-Anne Robinson, the chief executive officer for CARNA, said that many nurses in Alberta are reaching the age of retirement and the general population is both aging and seeing an increased incidence of chronic disease. “We do know that over a year ago there were significant vacancies [for registered nurses in Alberta] and those vacancies haven’t been filled,” Robinson said. “What’s happened to them? We’re not involved in [it], we’re not privy to that information.”
Some student nurses have been able to secure jobs thanks to a willingness to work hard to achieve their goals. Kathleen O’Hara, a third-year nursing student, will be among the first group of students to graduate with a bachelor of nursing from Mount Royal University. O’Hara got a job at Rockyview General Hospital in her first year working
as a nursing attendant where she changes diapers, and bathes and feeds patients. Some students couldn’t handle the bottom-rung position, she said, and chose instead to work in the service industry during school.
“Any position you hold, that will kind of be part of your job and I think they might as well get it now, [because it will] benefit them in the future,” O’Hara said. “They don’t see that.”
Adam Bratt, a nursing student who has worked in the health services industry for nearly six years, said that budget-related cutbacks are clearly impacting services for patients. “Obviously if you start reducing
the amount of nurses, aides, care attendants, [and] everything else you have on a shift, then that affects the quality of care,” Bratt said. “Even just in affecting the morale of the hospitals; the hospitals right now are not pleasant places to be.”
Valenzuela said that nursing students, like all job seekers, should search for jobs where they can develop skills that are transfereable. “Getting the job that you want at the level that you want is going to take a lot more work and networking, connecting with employers, rather than just applying to a posting,” Valenzuela said.