Nursing positions are sitting vacant, but more skilled nurses are needed to fill them, hiring managers say.

Nurses are the unsung heroes of medical care. With such a crucial role in health care, especially during one-on-one interactions with patients, shouldn’t hospitals be clamoring for more nursing graduates?

Not according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Results show that extended vacancies of up to 12 weeks for nursing positions are putting medical facilities in a serious bind, even as schools turn out more newly minted nurses than ever.

“The job market for health care positions continues to grow quickly in the rebounding economy, but filling key positions is far from easy,” said Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare, in a press release. “Organizations are struggling to find a balance between bringing in new talent and hiring experienced industry veterans capable of stepping into stressful environments with little ramp-up time. It’s important, however, that health care leaders develop pathways for new graduates.”

Hiring managers are looking for top talent—which they believe to be scarce—while nursing hopefuls are blocked on their career path by tightening and ever-changing nursing standards.

More than 200 health care hiring managers and human resource professionals took an online survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder between May and June 2013.

According to the survey, 24 percent of managers said applicants don’t have any relevant work experience, and 22 percent said they were only interested in applicants with specialized training. Among managers currently hiring nurses, 41 percent said they were only interested in experienced nurses, not new grads.

Nurses come into the health care industry with a wealth of knowledge and experience, but it isn’t enough for certain organizations.

“Many employers have raised the bar and the caliber of nurses they want to hire,” said Ted Ramirez, Assistant Vice President of Talent at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Western Regional Medical Center. “In doing so, it has made it difficult for new grads and less-experienced nurses to gain the experience necessary to be considered a viable candidate.”

In the face of a glut of new graduates in a weak economy, some employers are demanding more of applicants, often passing over registered nurses, or RNs, in favor of nurses with bachelor’s degrees. “It is a challenging conundrum when you have a need that must be filled, but you can’t find a qualified candidate to fill the role,” Ramirez added. “However, development and implementation of a robust and impactful new grad program can accelerate and flatten the learning curve of new grad RNs.”

Scott Topiol, a registered nurse, graduated from Los Angeles City College last year and knows how difficult finding a job in nursing can be. “I’ve been looking for a job as a new-grad nurse since that time and so far have been met over and over again with jobs that end up having way too many applicants for the positions and still haven’t been able to find a job as an RN in a hospital,” he said.

To stay afloat, Topiol started his own men’s scrubs business, called Murse World. “Sometimes you just need to take matters into your own hands,” he said.

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  • Registered Nurses
  • Advanced Practice Nurses