Amid Nursing Shortage, Nursing Programs Forced to Turn Away Qualified Candidates
A "lack of space and money" is leading many California colleges and universities to "tur[n] away eligible nursing candidates," thereby exacerbating the state's nursing shortage, the Contra Costa Times reports. Twelve of the 13 clinical nursing programs in the California State University system do not have space for all qualified applicants, while many community college nursing schools, which educate 70% of the state's nurses, have held lotteries for admissions and placed some students on waiting lists for "several years." According to a report from the UC-San Francisco Center for the Health Professions, California will need an additional 61,000 nurses by 2020, a figure that could grow after minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios are implemented Jan. 1. "Unless the community colleges and the California State University increase their education capacity by 50%, we won't have enough (nurses) over the next 20 years," Joanne Spetz, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said, adding, "We need huge increases."
Both lawmakers and college administrators agree that greater funding for nursing programs is necessary, but disagree on how to allocate the funding, the Times reports. Because of the high costs of lab equipment and retaining faculty who "can often earn more in the health care industry," nursing programs cost comparatively more than other college programs. The state, however, "distributes dollars on a per-student basis" and not based on programs costs, thereby giving neither state nor community colleges a "financial incentive to admit more nursing students over less expensive liberal arts students." While neither system has received additional funding for nursing programs in the last two budget cycles, the California Hospital Association last year advocated legislation that would grant community colleges $15 million and state universities $3.6 million "specifically for nursing." Citing a need for financial independence, however, the systems requested that additional funding go toward "all high-priority programs." New legislation (SB 317) sponsored by Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) would establish a $120 million annual fund to which individual nursing programs could apply for money. Still, the Times reports that even if California colleges increase their nursing enrollment, training opportunities for students in hospitals will remain limited (Sturrock, Contra Costa Times, 8/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.