After years of relative equilibrium, the job market for nurses is heating up in many markets, driving up wages and sign-on bonuses for the nation’s fifth-largest occupation.
The last nursing shortage more than a decade ago ended when a surge of nursing graduates filled many positions, and the financial crisis of 2008 led older nurses to delay retirement. But as the economy improves, nurses who held on to jobs through the uneven recovery are now retiring or cutting back hours, say recruiters. The departures come as demand for nurses has increased, thanks to expanded insurance coverage from job growth and the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re having a retirement wave,” said Jane Englebright, senior vice president and chief nursing officer for HCA Holdings Inc., the largest U.S. hospital company, with hospitals largely scattered across the South. HCA has reported wage increases for nurses in some markets, but she declined to say where.