The work experience conundrum


This pretty much perfectly encapsulates the job market for a new grad. When I graduated college the first time, it was at the very beginning of the ’08 recession. The market was literally flooded with overqualified applicants, so it didn’t really bother me that I didn’t get much attention from the places at which I applied. Well, I mean, it did bother me, but at least I understood why I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Flash forward to the present. People who regularly follow this blog know that I am again a new grad, this time with a degree in nursing. We’re no longer in a recession; the economy has been experiencing growth for awhile now. And with the projected shortage in nursing that’s coming up coupled with the retirement of the baby boomers, all I’ve ever been told is that nursing will be the most in demand field for next 20 years or so.

Well you could have fooled me.

I’m still plagued by this whole ‘experience’ bullshit. How exactly is a new grad supposed to get work when even the most basic of nursing jobs requires 2-5 years experience? Do these places not realize how ridiculous that is? Sure, there are new grad residency programs in a lot of hospital systems, but you’ll typically get thousands of people competing for literally probably 20 positions total. That’s not exactly an efficient system.

And the stupidest part of this is that places do indeed need nurses like crazy. I can comb, Craigslist, or the employment section of any professional nursing organization and there are listings and openings up the wazoo…if you already have 5 years of field experience. Let’s look at an example, shall we? This is a real life job listing for a part-time telephone advice nurse. Now let’s take a look at the qualifications. These are the MINIMUM qualifications:

  • Current, unencumbered Oregon RN license
  • Current unencumbered Washington RN license or must obtain within 6 months of hire
  • Must obtain other required nursing state licensures within 6 months
  • Minimum 3 years acute care nursing experience as an RN

Right off the bat, I need to have a minimum of 3 years acute care experience to work in an outpatient clinic. Part time. Doing nothing but talking to people on the phone. Do you know how much assessment you do over the phone in acute care? A BIG FUCKING ZERO. So why is this a requirement? And I also have to be dual licensed in two states, which is easy, but it isn’t cheap. But that’s not even the best part! Here are the “preferred” qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing
  • Five years nursing experience as an RN
  • Ambulatory Nursing Certification

I do happen to have a Bachelor’s in nursing. But FIVE YEARS experience as an RN. And certification as an ambulatory nurse? That’s a looooot of time and work for a part time telephone advice job. How would I know this? Because I spent a six month practicum at a primary care clinic, probably not at all dissimilar to the one in this job posting, and one of my duties was phone triage. And would you like to know what the job entails?

Reading from a binder.

That’s right. The RN at the end of that telephone isn’t using years and years of vast experience and knowledge to from-the-hip triage the people who call in. They’re reading straight out of a decision tree developed as part of a clinical triage protocol. There are protocols and decision trees for pregnant women, pediatrics, adults, geriatrics–you name it and there’s a clinical triage tree for it. All one has to do is ask the questions and follow the tree and you either a) give the client the home care advice at the bottom of the page, b) schedule an appointment for them with their provider, or c) tell them to go to the ER or an urgent care.

Someone with limited to no medical training could probably do this job. Yet I need to have 3-5 years experience, possess TWO licenses, AND be a certified ambulatory nurse? Give me a fucking break. And this is but one job posting. There are countless others similar to this. And I honestly do not get it. I’m not looking for supervisory or managerial positions. I’m not looking to do something highly specialized, like oncology (it takes literally years to get cleared to work with chemotherapy drugs) or helicopter flight nursing. Just a basic, entry level job. I’m fine starting at the bottom of the ladder. I get that. I’m cool with that. But there literally is no more bottom rung of the ladder.

It’s like someone took all of the rungs off the ladder except for the top one, so no matter how high I jump I’ll never reach it. Why? That’s what’s bugging me most. I went through an entire program specifically designed to make it so that I could provide basic nursing care in any setting. I passed an exam that certifies I would practice safely in any setting, and that I have the clinical judgment and critical thinking necessary to do these jobs. So what gives?

Quite simply, in the 21st century, employers aren’t interested in investing in their employees anymore. That’s the only thing I can think of. Money. When someone leaves a position or retires, companies would rather clone that person than take the time and money to help train a new employee. Rather than take someone who has the foundations to be a good employee, companies just want to skip all of that time and money and find someone who is a carbon copy of the old employee, experience and skills included. Which is a really shitty business model, because it only allows for horizontal hiring. Eventually they’ll have to hire a new grad. But until then, anyone who just graduated can expect the same stonewall over and over again:



5 thoughts on “The work experience conundrum

  1. This is irritating. Exactly what happened when I graduated with a degree in physics and astronomy. Need 5 years experience to work anywhere or a PhD. I had a Bachelor’s degree. 13 years later, and I’m teaching English.

      1. I’ve known that for ages. I’m going into the computer repair industry, so it’s not too hard to get experience from local shops and then move yourself up to Geek Squad or whatever, thankfully.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s