The Capacity for capacity


I attended the 1st annual UW Nursing Student Career Fair on Saturday. And got buried. Nearly a hundred eager and excited nurses, many ready to graduate, and many with their BSN.

Eager, excited, and…nervous. Even desperate. The recession has impacted every industry, including healthcare—despite the popular refrain on the 24/7 news networks that healthcare is a “bright spot” in the dismal job scene.

But the problem of too many new grad RNs is more complex than just a recession (isn’t it always?) The overarching issue is really one of capacity. Specifically, the capacity of…

  • …hospitals to devote significant time and resources to developing efficient and effective training programs
  • …hospitals to provide enough experienced RNs to train new grads
  • …experienced RNs to be effective trainers
  • …experienced RNs to accept and embrace new grads despite significant generational differences
  • …new grads to adjust to the taxing routine of full-time nursing
  • …new grads to effectively assimilate to the hierarchical structure of a hospital after years of collaboration and equality

There are other problems I could bullet out (and I’m sure you could, too), but those are the big ones as I see them. The future of nursing is graduating at unprecedented rates…and being turned away by hospitals incapable of creating the capacity to accept and train them. Meanwhile, those same hospitals have open positions that require “experienced” nurses. Can you say, “catch-22,” kids?

It’s not like we’re creating too many nurses, either. This is not a question of saturating the market. The demand is still critical, and the projections still say shortage for the foreseeable future. And the future is looking elsewhere for work. Those new grads won’t (and simply can’t) wait. Hence the desperation I saw at the nursing event. They will take jobs outside of nursing to make ends meet. They will begin to forget their training. Their licenses will lapse. And very soon we’ll be back in the position of having no nurses at all, new or otherwise, to fill critical needs. Think I’m being alarmist? I hope I am.

So, how do we fix it? The solution is simple: increase capacity. The application of the solution is, of course, incredibly complex. But the alternative is not at all attractive. Kind of like asking for a latte at Starbucks and getting a cup of Folgers.


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