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Central Ohio Nursing Schools Flood Local Job Market

Health officials say that there are three million nurses in the United States. But they also continue to warn that there's a nursing shortage. They say the number of jobs going unfilled will grow dramatically in the next 15 years. But in Central Ohio, that doesn't seem to be the case - at least not yet.

Linda Chase says she's never seen anything like Central Ohio's current abundance of nurses. Chase is the chief nursing officer for the Ohio State University Medical Center.

"Yes, we probably have a little more supply," Chase says. "We are very fortunate that there is an abundant supply here."

Chase hires nurses from many sources. Some come from Ohio State's College of Nursing.

In a simulated hospital room, three Ohio State nursing students work to treat a patient dubbed Mrs. Samuels. The patient is actually a computer controlled mannequin with a pulse and blood pressure. As the scenario unfolds, the group tries to cope with sudden bleeding after surgery.

"Her pulse is 109. Her pulse ox is 98 percent. Her temperature is 97.4. And her blood pressure is 127 over 86."

Ohio State's College of Nursing has about 200 graduates a year. That might not sound like a lot. But there are eleven other nursing programs in Central Ohio. They include the Mount Carmel College of Nursing and programs at Otterbein College, Capital University, and Columbus State. Again Linda Chase.

"In Columbus we have great colleges of nursing," Chase says. "We have a lot of really talented graduates coming out of these nursing programs."

The volume of graduates makes landing a nursing job in the Columbus area a competitive proposition.

"All the colleges of nursing in Central Ohio are great so I know I'm up against some good competition," says Katie Jenkins.

Jenkins, a senior, is just a few months away from graduating with her OSU nursing degree. She already works at the James Cancer Hospital as a nurse's aid. She hopes that experience will help her find a job in the Columbus market.

"It is a daunting challenge. However, I'm kind of competitive by nature so it kind of excites me and I think it's great for the community to know they're going to have the best of the best nurses taking care of them. So hopefully I just happen to be one of those nurses to get a job," Jenkins says.

The Ohio State University hospital system employs 2,300 nurses. Another large employer is Riverside Methodist Hospital where chief nursing officer Jann Marks overseas a nursing staff of 1,800.

"There really is not a nursing shortage in Central Ohio," says Marks.

Marks says the poor economy is another factor in the equation.

"With the contracting of the economy it has been a tough time for new grads in the Columbus area to find positions," she says.

That's not because there are fewer positions but fewer vacancies. There's a shortage of openings across the country says the AARP's Brenda Cleary who heads the Center to Champion Nursing in America.

"Temporarily there are more nurses staying in the workforce longer just as there are more people staying in the labor force in general - past the point where they had planned to retire - because economically they cannot do it," Cleary says.

Cleary says the lack of turnover in the nursing profession leads to a better balance between supply and demand. That means that some nurses with less experience are not getting their first or second job choices. That's especially true in Central Ohio says the Ohio Nurses Association's Jan Lanier.

"New graduates are having difficulty finding jobs here," Lanier says. "They're having difficulty finding the jobs that they want. A lot of them might have to take off shifts and job settings that are not at the top of their list right now."

That probably won't always be the case. OSU's Linda Chase says she thinks the local abundance of nurses is only temporary.

"It would be a mistake for our area to think that we would never be in a nursing shortage again," Chase says. "And it can swing very quickly. So we're fortunate today but we always have to plan for tomorrow."