Almost three quarters of newly qualified nurses are still searching for a permanent job months after graduating, a survey shows.
Many new nurses are searching for permanent work
Of the 507 newly-qualified nurses questioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 71% were still searching for a job at the starting level.
And 85% would consider changing professions if the problem continued.
The RCN is examining the impact of NHS deficits and recruitment freezes on nurses at the start of their careers.
The survey also found that 86% were not confident about finding a permanent position, and 93% either "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that recruitment freezes and job cuts were the reason why they were having difficulty finding a permanent job.
And 92% thought the current situation would deter others from wanting to become a nurse.
Student nurses were also unsure about their future, with 66% saying they did not believe they would find a permanent job when they qualified and 38% saying the situation had made them consider abandoning their course.
RCN general secretary, Dr Beverly Malone, said: "Short-term, quick-fix recruitment freezes in the NHS not only disillusion staff, they have a direct impact on patient care.
"We desperately need these nurses in the NHS now, not sometime in the future when trusts have solved their financial problems.
"What message are we sending out to the nurses of the future if we spend tens of thousands of pounds training them, only to see them without jobs right at the beginning of their careers?
"The period straight after qualifying is the single most important time in a nurse's career. Unless we welcome them into the profession then, we risk losing them forever."
Dr Malone said 180,000 nurses were due to retire over the next 10 years and action needed to be taken now.
"If we don't, then the long-term consequences will be extremely damaging for patient care."
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said: "Newly qualified nurses were encouraged to train by this government, yet ministers have let the NHS deteriorate to such a point that they are now unable to find jobs.
"This is a waste of NHS money and a criminal waste of talent. Many nurses will now be driven away from the job they spent years - and a lot of public money - training for."
Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: "The cruel irony is that many of these student nurses will have been tempted into the NHS by Labour's expensive recruitment campaigns of the recent past."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We think the RCN have overestimated.
"In many places, there are still jobs available for newly qualified nurses.
"We are working closely with NHS Employers to find better ways of ensuring work opportunities for newly qualified nurses."
The RCN also questioned 2,244 student nurses as part of its survey.
Are you a newly qualified nurse finding it difficult to find work in the NHS?
I'm a paediatric student nurse due to qualify in 4 months, and the job situation terrifies me. It seems that after 3 years spent on the breadline at university, studying for exams and essays at the same time as attending hospital placements, my choice now is to either move away from my friends, family and home in the UK to pursue my chosen career abroad, or work on a checkout counter. Well done Labour.
Anna Rothwell, Hertfordshire
I am due to qualify in a few months time. There are no jobs available in both my training hospital, and the hospital I work in part time, despite the wards being desperately short staffed. On the NHS jobs website there are only 8 jobs for newly qualified adult nurses listed in the entire country. I'm looking at moving to Australia, at least they value their nurses out there.
Robert Edwards, Warrington, Cheshire
My girlfriend is training as a midwife and despite the national news that there is a shortage of midwifes, no NHS trusts are taking on newly qualified staff due to financial constraints. Surely when the NHS is paying a bursary to these people to do 3 years of training there should be jobs out there for them!
James Binns, York
Here in Southern California, there is shortage of qualified nurses - and those who go into critical care are making considerably more than I do with my PhD. It is what the market will take here, but not looking to the long term (as more nurses retire) will put the NHS in the same position as hospitals here - having to pay premiums.
Samantha, San Diego, USA
It's not just the nurses who are having the serious employment problems after graduation. So too are many therapists such as Dieticians, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists. It is extremely disheartening when you graduate full of enthusiasm and new ideas only to find there are no jobs! As Frances says, all that hardship and struggle for nothing! Why do we bother? When are all the health care professionals going to be appreciated? When is the NHS going to get the full support it needs to provide the right care to patients?
Laura Tripkovic, Surrey
I am not a newly qualified nurse but rather someone much older who interviews and recruits nurses of all grades to NHS jobs. I've interviewed many nurses who qualified over the last ten years and appointed very few. The reason? Nursing has been turned in to an academic subject by misguided educationalists who are more interested in furthering their own careers than improving patient care. The result? Many newly qualified nurses can talk the talk but in the clinical situation are not fit for purpose. Sad, but true. I'm sorry for the people who have studied in the recent past, it's not their fault but they would be better served seeking work as health care assistants for a couple of years and then they might be 'fit for purpose at the end of it.
Philip Davis, London
I can empathise with the nurses, as I have recently graduated with a BSc Hons Speech and Language Therapy degree after four years of very hard work. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists estimates that 80% of this year's graduates are currently without jobs. The situation is, I suspect, the same for physiotherapy and occupational therapy graduates, as well as other health professions. My course was NHS funded (tuition fees paid and a generous non-repayable bursary each year) so the recruitment drive is an expensive one, and the result is that many highly skilled health professionals are having to take unskilled and unrelated jobs to survive.
Although I'm not a nurse I graduated last year as a physiotherapist, and I'm still looking for my first job. I've applied for at least 70 vacancies and still can't get a job. 93% of this years physiotherapist graduates are still unemployed. This is a massive waste of not only money but talent. I'm now considering going abroad to get my first job. The job situation is affecting all disciplines in the NHS; I hear junior doctors are also finding it difficult to get their first job. The government needs to fix this problem soon before skilled people are lost to other professions or countries.
I have recently graduated with a BSc Hons and have only just found a post at St Thomas' in London after months of searching and applying. I have taken this job not because it was what I specifically wanted to do after 3 years of hardship and hard work (working two jobs just to be able to survive in the capital) but because there was simply nothing else. I am a good nurse and want to give the best but the desperation I and my fellow students have felt over this 6 months has been a disgrace. Many of my fellow students have yet to find nursing jobs after the same 3 years. What was Tony Blair doing in encouraging us into this work if there are no jobs for us. I have student debts up to my ears with little or no support. What has happened to this country, I barely recognise it anymore?
Frances Mathieson, London