Although there is a drastic shortage of nurses and trained professionals in the healthcare industry, there seems to be a roadblock to gainful employment in the field. Why is it so hard to find a good job or a way to get your foot in the door? The answer is simple; experience. But why is it that nearly every professional entering the healthcare industry is asked about their experience levels during their initial interviews? It is because many of your peers are able to attain higher levels of experience than just normal clinical rotations in nursing school. They are able to find experience in healthcare internships.
The Healthcare Industry At A Glance
There is a major need in the industry for nurses and administrators in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2012-2022 released in December 2013, Registered Nursing (RN) is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2022.
The RN workforce is expected to grow from 2.71 million in 2012 to 3.24 million in 2022, an increase of 526,800 or 19%. The Bureau also projects the need for 525,000 replacements nurses in the workforce bringing the total number of job openings for nurses due to growth and replacements to 1.05 million by 2022. (Economic News Release, 2013)
With all these jobs in the industry it should be easy to get into nursing school, right? Absolutely not. “According to AACN’s report on 2012-2013 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. Almost two-thirds of the nursing schools responding to the survey pointed to faculty shortages as a reason for not accepting all qualified applicants into their programs.” (Rosseter, 2014) It is truly the trickle-down effect in the industry. There are not enough funds, teachers, or room to help accommodate the need in the field. That is why so many people turn to internships. They can help in so many ways for people applying for spots in nursing programs or for jobs; but at what cost?
Healthcare Internships; Pros vs Cons
Have you ever heard, “it’s not what you know it’s who you know?” Attaining an internship in the healthcare industry can be one of the best ways to network and get your name out in the industry. If you are a driven individual and can show employers or educators how much of an asset you would be to their team, when a position opens up at their facility or school you will be one of the first people they will contact. A lot of times you will be made aware of openings before jobs are even posted. Giving you a leg up in the interview process or even gaining a job before a position is posted.
While working in an internship in the field you will also be gaining relevant experiences that help improve your marketability as well. Being able to add to your resume and show employers or educators that you have performed a number of additional roles in the field no matter how insignificant can set you apart from other people applying for the same positions.
Time may be your most valuable commodity and trying to fit an internship into your schedule while balancing life, work, and school may seem impossible. But people make time for what they deem important. Prioritization of one’s schedule is quite important. But if you can find a way to fit in even a few hours a week this can pay dividends.
There is little financial benefit to doing an internship in the healthcare field. In an interview with Cheri Azer, a BSN prepared nurse living in Cincinnati; I asked her how she was able to get into nursing school. She replied that she visited a local nursing home near the school she had applied to. She had to change bedpans for patients for nearly three years there. But she finally met a clinical instructor that taught at the nursing school she was applying they helped vouch for her application. It wasn’t a glorious path, but not everyone knows someone else in the field. Cheri Azer did this role for 3 years. Devoting 5-10 hours a week of her time for free, but it paid off. (Azer, 2016)
The roles that are asked of interns are very rarely high level. They are the nitty, gritty roles that nurses and experienced professionals love to delegate out to others. They may include bed pan rotations, clerk roles, secretary work, or even some low level janitorial type assignments. But they show potential employers and educators how much you want to get into the field.
So before asking yourself, “what came first the chicken or the egg?” Or perhaps how do I get a job to gain experience before I actually gain experience? Think about doing an internship in the healthcare field. Even if it is for a few hours a week, it is a great way to attain experience while increasing your networking potential. The more people you know in the field, the better chance you have of landing that dream job!
Economic News Release. (2013, December 13). Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t08.htm
Rosseter, R. (2014, April 24). Nursing Shortage. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage
Azer, C. (2016, October 15). How to get into the healthcare industry? [Telephone interview].