Graphic | Photo
A few dozen nurses are packed into this room at Sutter medical
center in Roseville to practice a scenario none of them looks
A patient's heart has stopped beating, and a loved one is
hysterical. The nurses job is to bring life back to the
This practice run is part of RN STRONG
, a residency program that gives
support and opportunity to first time nurses. They get additional
training while attending to patients.
"I've wanted to become a nurse forever, I just love being
around people," says Crystal Rutschmann, who started in the program
a month ago.
"I've had a lot of health problems myself so I can really
relate to a lot of things that patients are going through, " she
Rutschmann is grateful to have a job through RN STRONG. After
she graduated from nursing school, she was unemployed
for seven months. She says she applied for 88 jobs. Recent
data suggest she's not alone - more than one in five nursing school
graduates in California is unable to find a job within a
"It's a lot harder to get a job right now. So I think
that their support along with helping you transition from being a
brand new nurse into a seasoned nurse is a great idea," says
It used to be much easier to find a job in nursing.
"At almost any time in the last 20-30 years, the red carpet
has been laid down for them," says David Auerbach, a health
economist with the RAND Corporation.
He says past nursing shortages made it easy to enter the
profession. But in the past decade, nursing schools have
almost doubled their number of graduates nationwide.
At the same time, the troubled economy has kept baby boomer
nurses working longer.
"It's this impressive growth in nursing school output hitting
right into the recession, which is causing people to hang onto jobs
and not retire," he says.
He says it might be hard for new nurses to find jobs for the
next few years.
But demand will come back when older nurses leave, as the
population ages, and more people get health insurance.
"Despite what's happening today, there could be shortages
again, if people don't continue going to school and doing what
they're doing now," Auerbach adds.
So RAND says health institutions and policymakers should look
for ways to avoid future nursing shortages. It says that would help
assure the quality of patient care, and control costs.
"It is critical from patient care standpoint, from
infrastructure, from everything that the graduates that we get, we
try to get them in the door as best we can, give them a very,
very good program and get them to stay with us," says Monica Small,
Director of Clinical Workforce Development at
Sutter's RN STRONG program is partly funded through a federal
Department of Labor economic stimulus grant.
Two million dollars helps to support 100 new nurses.
The idea for RN STRONG pre-dated the recession.
Small says what makes this residency program stand out is its
"Instead of following the model of waiting until a nurse
leaves and then you post the position, what this is doing is saying
realistically we project that we're probably going to have
so-and-so leaving or whatever in the next six months or whatever.
So we're going to be spending the money anyway to hire down the
road, so let's bring them on now so that by the time the
person leaves they're ready and they're sliding right into
positions. And so far that's working."
The California nurses who do find a job can make a comfortable
living. A two-year degree can lead to average salary of almost
$90,000 a year.
The number of nurses hired by RN STRONG barely makes a dent in
the number looking for work.
But when older nurses do start retiring, Sacramento area
Sutter medical centers will have nurses already on hand to replace