Nursing students triumph in bad economy

(Photo courtesy of Tamera Rice )

Melanie Roberts

With the building of the new Kaiser Permanente building in Foothill Ranch, there are more openings available for nurses, like students graduating from the nursing program at Saddleback College.

The one-story medical building was approved by city planning commissioners with a 4-0 vote on Nov. 10.

The building will be 36,022 square-feet and contain 24 doctor’s offices. It will also hold a pharmacy and offer out-patient services.

“The increase in new nurses has made getting jobs immediately upon graduation very difficult,” said Diane Pestolesi, a nursing instructor.

“Students are finding that although new facilities are opening they are not usually looking to hire new graduate RNs to staff them,” she said.

The rise in the number of nursing students has made positions harder to covet.

According to Pestolesi, there has been a 64 percent increase in the number of new graduate nurses produced in the last two years. This is the result of growth in the existing community colleges nursing programs.

Also contributing to this growth, is four new entry to practice programs that have been started in Orange County in the past five years.

New facilities like this help, but there are still a variety of jobs out there for students graduating from the nursing program, said Tamera Rice, assistant dean of health sciences and human services.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate. Students are finding jobs within three to six months of graduating,” Rice said. “However, dropping off your resume is not enough. Students need to be persistent. A lot of networking is involved”

Rice said that the program takes in approximately 60 students per semester. Before entering, nursing students take a pre-exam to test their skills. Once admitted, it takes about two years to complete the program.

Linda Gleason, nursing instructor said it is important to prioritize when in the nursing program.

“Students need to know to be prepared when entering the program. It’s important to balance things in life. It is a very challenging program,” Gleason said. “In my experience, students struggle in not wanting to give up things.”

Shannon Davis, 28, nursing said, “My experience in the Saddleback nursing program has been absolutely amazing. The nursing program has also been one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life. In my clinical rotations it was very clear to me that the Saddleback nursing program is highly reputable within the community.”

Davis said, “Many facilities are looking to hire only people with a bachelors of science in nursing, so this could be a challenge with nurses who just have their associates degree in nursing. All I know is the job market is highly competitive.”

The nursing program at Saddleback was started in 1971, and students who enter it have a pass rate of between 94 and 99 percent.

A candlelight pinning ceremony, in the McKinney Theatre, will honor this semester’s 52 graduates on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.