Winona State University–Rochester student Hannah Ringler began her search for a nursing job two months before her graduation. The 22-year-old had a job locked up a week later.

“It all happened so fast,” Ringler said. “I applied on Monday, had an in-person interview on Friday, then got hired on Monday.”

On Thursday, Ringler was among 47 WSU-Rochester registered nursing students to participate in a pinning ceremony at Rochester Community and Technical College. The ceremony is a symbolic welcoming into the profession underscored by a robust job market.

Like Ringler, many new registered nurses are finding that employers can’t wait to hire them. Several said they had jobs lined up weeks, if not months, before Thursday’s ceremony. As many as one-third to one-half of Thursday’s graduates have confirmed start dates, officials said.

“We can barely keep up,” said Jeanine Gangeness, WSU-Rochester associate vice president for academic affairs. “I would say the thing we hear the most from employers is. ‘We really like yours. Do you have some more for us?’”

WSU-Rochester student Mikayla Eischen began her job search last January and landed a job a month later.

She will be working at Ascension in Milwaukee.

Eischen said she has wanted to be a nurse ever since she was a freshman in high school. She was 14 when she underwent a procedure to fix a racing heart condition.

What she recalls about that time were the Mayo Clinic nurses and their efforts to make her feel comfortable the day of the procedure.

“I just want to be able to give back to people the way those nurses treated me,” Eischen said. “That’s really what drove home my desire to be a nurse.”

Thursday’s ceremony is one of four WSU will host this spring. Nursing graduates often prefer the smaller, more intimate setting to a traditional graduation because it’s confined to the classmates they got to know through the program.

“We all know each other very well,” Eischen said. “We spent a lot of time together, so it’s nice to be able to have one ceremony with just the 40 some of us.”

Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, much faster than the average for most occupations. The median annual salary for nurses is more than $71,000.

The demand for nurses is being driven by an aging Baby Boom population that is now entering the Medicare rolls at a rate of two to three million people each year. People are living longer and needing more medical care. More people are suffering from chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes. Turnover in the profession is also fueling the rampant need for nurses

Yet, experts note that the nursing shortage, while a national phenomenon, might not exist in every locality. Competition for jobs is likely to be more intense in metropolitan areas than in rural ones.

Ringler said she and a roommate tried to get jobs in the Twin Cities, but the process was “slower” than at Mayo. She wasn’t exactly sure why, but suspected that Twin Cities nursing students who did their clinicals at Twin Cities hospitals are given priority over others.

Having a network of contacts helps. Alexandria Van Gilder, a WSU-Rochester student who took part in the pinning ceremony, said she learned of a job opening through a professor, who connected her to a Mayo placement coordinator. She will begin working in the thoracic post-surgery unit at Mayo.

Gangeness said the demand for nurses has been going strong for the past five years, and she expects it to continue.

“We don’t anticipate that we’re going to see any drop in the need for nurses any time soon,” Gangeness said.

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