Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Talk Them Out Of...
Wise and worldly readers, is there a more elegant way to handle warning students about longshots?
The arrogance can go both ways. It's not only the professor warning against grad school, it can also be the professor urging grad school on the student because the professor supposedly knows best. I remember as an undergrad (and after) having a rather distorted view of the advice any professor gave me so that I followed it mostly blindly and eventually made choices (e.g., grad school) that I realize at the time were mistaken. Don't get me wrong....I made my decisions and am responsible for them (and things have so far turned out pretty good...but I still think my decision to get a PHD was the wrong one at the time and for the reasons I so decided).
If someone asks me whether to go to grad school, I tell them my default response to any such question is "don't go" and if someone wants to go, they have to start with the position that it's a bad idea and then prove to themselves it's not a bad idea. I then also reassure them that they ought to ask a lot of people, not just me, and that if some of the people they ask act as if they have the absolute right answer, then they should take that advice with a large grain of salt.
I would caution that whatever we do say, don't pitch it as "the easier program". We all know nursing can be pretty demanding but if you aren't good with the interpersonal then a counseling related field like human services is going to be hard for you too. I couldn't hack the math and science (in addition to getting squeemish with blood and needles), so nursing wasn't for me. However, human services was and it was easy. I know it wasn't for others.
Further help my education choices was that my school, and several in the area, have started launching hr-free and prof-free career nights. It's several former grad students 5-20 years in the future talking about how their career evolved. That has proven to be extremely useful in realizing what grad school can do for you outside of academia. Admittedly, this has been more on the side of validating my choices rather than making my choices, but seeing such an event prior to joining grad school would have been useful. Such career nights might help talk students out of the more identifiable fields and into other streams they might enjoy more.
My thought is to recommend students to look at jobs, whether at postings or career nights, and see where they possibly see themselves.
That said, when my students ask for guidance, I ask what they want to do, where they want to be. I give them the stats (and readings) on the stats re: academic jobs. I tell them about the experience of grad school, good and bad. I suggest they seek counsel from other faculty as well.
But in the end, it's their choice. If they choose it, I will write them letters and do anything I can to help them be successful.
The closest anyone came was (during graduate school) when I heard comments about how you "shouldn't do this unless you really can't imagine yourself doing anything else." I think what they meant was that only those with a singular passion should do this. But passion's not enough and telling someone who has spent all of their remembered life in school to make a decision based on what they can or can't imagine isn't very useful advice. I would have much rather someone sat down with me to (a) show me the numbers, which even then were bleak and (b) helped me get in touch with people who could help me identify worthwhile alternatives.
Unfortunately, I have found that most academics I have encountered are too focused on their own path to success to have paid enough attention to the huge numbers of the equally qualified who are unsuccessful. Their blind spot turned into my blind spot and I have 10 years down (for me) a poor path to show for it. It was my path and ultimately my responsibility. But I wish I'd encountered someone willing to seriously try to talk me out of it.
We (allegedly) have a shortage of nurses in the Chicago metropolitan area. But wages/salaries of nurses there are not rising very quickly. (As near as I can tell, in fact, both weekly earnings and annual earnings--in nominal, not in inflation adjusted, terms--have been flat since about 2009.)
What's happening to earnings of nurses in the upper Midwest (Minnesota? Wisconsin? The UP?)
1. Healthcare is apparently unprofitable (or not profitable enough...) in rural areas. We are seeing rapid consolidation of healthcare companies--Aurora, based in Illinois, is growing rapidly here--and they are closing clinics and hospitals in the rural areas while, at the same time, opening them in the urban areas. There are some areas in the state in which one hospital is serving multiple counties, and even urgent care clinics are difficult to locate.
2. The rise of nurse-on-call telephone and live chat services seems to be cutting down on jobs for general practice nurses by handling triage for the worrying-but-normal complaints that have always taken up a large percentage of office visits.
3. As with new teachers, the power differential between the rural healthcare companies and newly minted nurses is such that new nurses are at a disadvantage in job negotiations. For example, nursing jobs in Madison advertise a starting salary (these days, at one of the three hospitals, an RN with 1 year of experience is looking at about $38 an hour). Rural jobs don't list a salary, but ask for the applicant's "salary requirements" instead. Salaries are much lower in rural areas, sometimes below $30 an hour.
So, although it would seem to be a buyer's market for rural nurses, there are in fact chronic shortages. From time to time the state has had programs to encourage nurses (and doctors and veterinarians) to locate in rural areas by forgiving their student loans if they stay for a certain number of years, etc., but as far as I know those programs have never had much effect.
It's an interesting example of how economics works in the real world. In this case, high supply of labor (urban) is linked to high and rising salaries, whereas low supply of labor (rural) is linked to low, stagnant salaries.