Unemployed since January

Was: Nurse at United Hospital

Looking for: Hospital nursing position

Biggest surprise: "How difficult it is to find a hospital nursing job right now."

Suzanne Winzenburg knows there are two employment challenges in this economy. Finding a hospital nursing job took her all of last summer. Keeping it was even harder. United Hospital in St. Paul laid her off in early January, three months after she started and while she was still in orientation. With cuts made according to seniority, the most recently hired are the first to go. The job would have paid $34.70 an hour, for 24 hours a week.

Winzenburg looks for work every day. She checks job postings on all local hospital websites, and she keeps in touch with nursing recruiters. She has been a nurse for 17 years, but spent the past six years doing home health rather than hospital care -- a disadvantage to her current search. Also, most openings are for specialties, such as OB or surgery, and her background is in general medical care. Winzenburg wants the variable shifts of hospital work to give her some days free to continue studying toward becoming a family nurse practitioner.

But time is of the essence. Her health insurance runs out the end of the month, and she carries coverage for her husband and three children. "He's a mortgage broker, so there's a double whammy in our household," she said. She doesn't think that they can afford to continue the policy. The full monthly premiums could run about $1,000, she estimates. So, she figures they'll have to let it lapse with the hope that she will soon find another job with benefits. And if she doesn't? "I don't know what we'll do," she said.