Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

July 25, 2002

Pitt nursing students face no shortage of job offers

Pitt nursing students face no shortage of job offers

Tricia Roesch can't remember any students from the Pitt School of Nursing's Class of 1999, herself included, who did not have jobs waiting for them upon graduation.

She laughed as she recalled a friend who was hired by Johns Hopkins Hospital: "As soon as the recruiters heard she was a Pitt grad, they asked her, 'When can you start?'"

"I read a lot of nursing journals, and there are always several pages — it seems like it increases every month — listing job openings across the United States," Roesch said. "A lot of hospitals, I've noticed, are offering hiring bonuses and relocation bonuses."

Roesch is a staff nurse at the VA Medical Center in Oakland, and is pursuing a master's degree part-time in Pitt's acute care nurse practitioner program. "I'm going for my master's because I want to become an advanced practice nurse," not because nurses need graduate degrees to get good jobs, she said.

Nor does a Ph.D. in nursing open up more lucrative opportunities than a master's degree, noted doctoral student George Rodway.

"In many cases, a nurse practitioner with a master's degree — which is what I am, currently — will do better financially than a nursing Ph.D.," Rodway said. "Unless you have a special desire to pursue research, as I do, you can be better off financially not pursuing the Ph.D."

(Pitt nursing Dean Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob confirmed that nurses enroll in her school's doctoral program because they want to become scientists and educators. "There are non-financial incentives that are attractive to those folks, including helping to renew the [supply of] nurses and doing clinical research that benefits everybody," the dean said.) Like many men who go into nursing, Rodway had another career — he was a high school science teacher — before deciding that nursing was what he really wanted to do. He earned his B.S.N. from the University of Akron in 1994 and his master's from Kent State four years later. Rodway, 43, hopes to complete his Ph.D. here in another year and a half, and then get a post-doctoral fellowship.

"There's no doubt that there is going to continue to be a shortage of Ph.D.s in nursing," Rodway said. "You don't see the same peak-and-valley effect in the supply of nursing Ph.D.s that you see at the bachelor's degree level."

Rodway criticizes the nursing profession for failing to recruit aggressively among men. "There's a serious shortage of nurses, and the field is missing out on half of the population as potential recruits," he said.

A survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that there were 146,902 male registered nurses in 2000, representing 5.4 percent of the country's nursing population. That was up from 45,060 men (2.7 percent of R.N.s) in 1980.

Currently, there are 30 men among the 404 nursing undergrads at Pitt.

Dan Martin, who this fall will begin his senior year in the Pitt nursing school's bachelor of science program, said he considered several majors and decided on nursing because he will be virtually guaranteed a job when he graduates.

"Especially now with the nursing shortage, somebody with a bachelor's degree in nursing can get a job in any city in the country, in almost any hospital, basically doing whatever area of practice you want," Martin said.

Martin initially planned to enroll in law school or a graduate program in forensics after completing his B.S.N., but now he's leaning toward entering the job market next spring. "Before the spring term even ends, usually in January or February, the nursing school hosts a job fair," he said. "Employers come from all over the area and from other states as far away as Texas and sometimes beyond. Representatives from hospitals and health care companies will meet with students, conduct interviews right there and hire you on the spot."

Martin works in UPMC Presbyterian's recovery room, and said he's seen evidence there of the current nursing shortage. "Sometimes, one nurse will be taking care of as many as eight patients," he said. "Sometimes, we're having to keep patients in the recovery room because there are no staff to take them up to the floor. There are just too many patients and not enough nurses. It's really affecting every part of the hospital."

Bethany Francis dreamed for years of becoming a doctor. But then, while attending a program for Fayette County high school students considering careers as health professionals, she witnessed a baby being born at Uniontown Hospital.

"I saw that the nurse stayed in the delivery room the entire time, but the doctor was in and out," said Francis, who will begin her sophomore year in Pitt's B.S.N. program next fall. "That's when I thought, 'Maybe I should consider becoming a nurse instead.' I like spending more time with the patient — not that doctors don't spend time with patients, please don't get me wrong. But I found that I liked nursing better."

While she hasn't ruled out medical school eventually, Francis plans to attend graduate school after earning her B.S.N., to become a certified nurse-widwife.

Francis was awarded one of the Pitt nursing school's two inaugural Adena Davis Scholarships for outstanding minority students (27 of the 404 current nursing undergrads are minorities). She said she's found the school to be "very welcoming" to minorities. "But I've found that the school is welcoming overall, to all students," she added.

— Bruce Steele

Leave a Reply