The U.S. Labor Department says nursing is one of the country's fastest-growing occupations, but some local nurses are discovering it's not an easy job market for recent graduates.
Joy Griffin knows firsthand how tough the job market is for nurses right now.
"You think that we're always going to need nurses," she said. "But I was very shocked."
She graduated from Queens University's Presbyterian School of Nursing in May 2011 and only got a job in April 2012 after submitting more than 30 applications.
She knows other graduates who are still looking.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts a 26 percent increase in registered nursing positions by 2020 because of baby boomers aging.
But Griffin said a lot of those positions are being filled by people with more experience.
"It just seemed like a lot of retired nurses were going back to work," she said.
CPCC's Associate Dean for Health Programs Ruth Hedgpeth said Griffin is right. Experienced nurses are coming back or deciding not to leave at all.
"Nurses who would love to have retired last year or the last five years have not been able to do that because of the economy," Hedgpeth said.
In fact, a recent survey by the American Society of Registered Nurses found around 43 percent of newly licensed RNs can't find jobs within 18 months of graduation.
But Hedgpeth said most of CPCC's graduates do find jobs, many before they graduate.
"We tell our graduates to find 'a' job," she said. "Again, it may not be the job that they want."
She said new nurses should look outside of Charlotte, in small towns and surrounding counties, and at nursing homes or urgent care centers affiliated with big health systems. That can allow them to transfer to a hospital in a few years.
"The outlook for jobs for registered nurses is still positive," she said. "It's on the uptick."
Hedgpeth believes once the economy improves and the industry sorts through the new health care reform law, even new graduates will see a spike in demand.
Griffin hopes so.
"You work so hard in nursing school," she said. "You get towards the end and you're so excited for all that to pay back and then you're just hit with reality."