How New Nurses Can Handle Job Shortages During COVID-19

Amanda Ghosh

Amanda Ghosh


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A lack of available nursing jobs seems unlikely during a pandemic. But healthcare institutions are in a lurch as they limit the number of patients seen per day and cancel elective procedures. With less cash available to hire new nurses, and less need for additional staff, hospitals are furloughing nurses by the dozen and hiring fewer graduates. If you are a new nurse and COVID has impacted your ability to find work, here are a couple of ways to manage.

4 Ways to Handle a Job Shortage During a Pandemic

  1. Do not Let Fear and Anxiety Overpower Reason

It is understandable if you are panicking because you are graduating with loans and no job. On top of career pressures, you are probably anxious about coronavirus and its impact on your life and health. However, try to take a breath and regain your calm.

Any pandemic-caused job shortage is likely to be temporary. Nursing will always be an in-demand profession.

In the meantime, reduce spending to save money while repaying student loans. Consider moving in with your parents, splitting rent with a roommate, cutting back on subscription services like Netflix, and reduce eating out. Use the extra time to improve your resume, hone your interview skills, and build your network.

Remember, not all nurses land jobs before they graduate. The typical job search takes at least six months.

If you can afford it, while you have the time, consider asking a professional to edit your resume. You can use a nursing career coach, or a resume service offered by websites like They will know what employers are looking for, and the latter will insert keywords into your resume to help you get noticed by search engines.

  • Readjust Your Expectations

We see layoffs in ED, L&D, pediatrics, ambulatory care, and outpatient facilities. A good number of these nursing specialties are hard to break into as a new graduate. So, do not interpret an inability to land a job in labor and delivery, for example, as a personal failure.

Most new nurses start in med-surge before they specialize. If you thought you could work in a specialty after graduation, you will likely need to adjust your expectations as very few graduates do this.

We all want our career trajectory to be something we can control. However, some parts of your career will be out of your control. If we can learn anything from the fact that the average employee will hold a dozen different jobs before age 52, it is that you do not start your career in the position you ultimately hold before retiring.

It is okay to add twists and turns to your career. Look at them as opportunities to learn and grow. Who knows, you may find you love a job you never expected to experience.

  • Think Broader

If you find yourself with time off between school and work because of job shortages, you may want to use it to broaden your openness to various nursing professions. Even if you do not want to work in community nursing, for example, you can learn a lot from this job while gaining experience.

Heck, use COVID-related furloughs as your excuse to explore various areas of nursing. You do not have to marry one.

Here is a list of jobs that are reasonable to land as a new graduate:

  • Med-surge
  • Med-surge specialty (orthopedics, oncology, cardiac, neurology)
  • Step-down units
  • Rehabilitation
  • Home health
  • Long-term acute care
  • Skilled nursing
  • Ventilator units at long-term acute care and skilled nursing facilities
  • Outpatient dialysis
  • Nursing homes

One caveat- be sure you feel you can do the job you get (assuming you have a choice). Some specialties like oncology can be especially difficult for new nurses as a first job.

Adding additional geographic locales to your search is another way to broaden your horizons. Just be sure you can afford to live where you are looking for work. Areas like San Francisco and New York City are expensive, and the job markets there are competitive.

  • Network, Network, Network!

Once you have had time to process your reality check (sorry!), get busy networking. Some graduates will love this aspect of the job search, and others will dread it. But the good news is after you get used to talking to new people, networking gets a lot easier (for real!)

Networking is an opportunity to practice your soft skills. Do not ask for a job. Consider each connection as a potential informational interview and ask how you can return the favor. Perhaps you can give them a testimonial or connect them to someone you know.

Two golden rules to remember when networking: (1) start with the relationship, not the resume, and (2) offer value in return.

Life Has a Plan for You

It is important to remember that life has a plan for us, even if we are unaware of it. Find joy amidst the chaos and stress, practice self-care, and develop your ability to be grateful. Job-searching stress, too, shall pass. Soon you will be working in your profession, and furloughs and resumes will be a distant memory.

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