January 24, 2011 in City

WSU associate dean says nursing can be healthy career choice

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Anne Hirsch is shown in the teaching lab of the WSU College of Nursing in Spokane on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

Today’s nursing school graduates continue to find good jobs even as the economy stumbles along and the uncertainty of health care reform looms. Anne Hirsch, senior associate dean of the WSU College of Nursing and a director of the Washington Center for Nursing, says the types of jobs are changing and colleges are struggling to turn out enough graduates to fill the open jobs across the state.

Q. Are there jobs for today’s nursing school graduates?

A. Absolutely there are jobs. Recently we did a survey. … About 80 percent of newly licensed nurses are finding a position within one year.

Whether it (is) the exact job, location and shift they envisioned for themselves remains to be seen. Many new nurses are applying to long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, and home-health centers. These are not the typical acute care jobs at hospitals that new nurses tended to gravitate toward. It’s true that those jobs aren’t as plentiful, especially not in Spokane right now.

Q. Where are the jobs?

A. Many nurses graduating from WSU are going to the West Side. It used to be that they would walk out our doors with five job offers in hand. That may not be the case anymore.

What we tell these graduates is to take a job in nursing, to work with other nurses and continue to learn. Sometimes that’s in long-term care.

Q. What is the pay?

A. It remains very attractive to be a nurse. The average pay can be upwards of $70,000 a year. It’s easily $50,000-plus even for nurses working in long-term care.

Q. With such good pay why does there continue to be a nursing shortage?

A. It’s a pipeline issue at universities. There are many qualified applicants who want to be nurses. We just can’t take all of them. Health care is the sector where there is job growth and we attract young students and those interested in nursing as a second career.

What’s happening is that the educational institutions don’t have the capacity to meet the demand. It breaks down to three problems: The first is money. It costs the state money to produce nurses. The second is clinic experiences. We have to have partnership institutions where our students can gain experience. And the last is having enough faculty.

Q. What is, or can be done to ease the nursing shortage?

A. We must not lose sight of the need of our four-year baccalaureate institutions to have increased capacity in this state. If we don’t do something, we’re not going to meet our goals of maintain the type of nursing care people have come to expect.

At stake, frankly, is the health of people in this state and in Spokane County. That’s why this is important. We have to have a longer-range view. I know it sounds corny, but it’s about Washington’s health.

Q. How many students accepted into WSU’s nursing school are successful?

A. We have about 95 to 98 percent retention. We get the cream of the crop.

Q. What needs to happen at the Legislature this year to bolster WSU’s nursing school?

A. We just need to have the resources to continue to provide excellent education at all levels.

That includes baccalaureate program nurses, RNs coming back to school, and our masters and PhD candidates.


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