Associated Press Examines Nursing Shortage in California
The Associated Press on Friday examined the nursing shortage in California, which the Employment Development Department estimates will require 30,000 additional registered nurses in the next four years. The state will require an additional 109,600 nurses by 2010, the Associated Press reports. According to federal data from March 2000, California had the second-lowest number of registered nurses per capita, with 544 nurses per 100,000 residents, compared to Washington, D.C., which had the highest number of registered nurses per capita, with 1,675 nurses per 100,000 residents. California also has a shortage of licensed vocational nurses, who perform more limited hospital duties. The Associated Press attributes the shortage of nurses in California in part to an increase in the state's general population and a rise in the number of seniors over the past decade. In addition, advances in medical technology have allowed hospitals to perform more procedures and increased demand for services, which has contributed to the problem. Further, managed care has limited hospital stays in California, a trend that prompted hospitals to hire fewer nurses and colleges and universities to spend less on nursing schools. The nursing shortage has forced many hospitals to hire temporary or traveling nurses, who often lack experience and cost twice as much as staff nurses. A $52 million state grant program to fund nursing education, recruitment and retention programs will likely add 5,000 nurses statewide over the next few years. In addition, state-mandated nurse-to-patient ratios will take effect in California in 2004. The ratios will require one nurse per patient in hospital trauma units and one nurse per six patients in surgical units (Jablon, Associated Press, 11/27).
In related news, the Fresno Bee on Sunday examined a new contract between Kaiser Permanente and the California Nurses Association that eliminates mandatory overtime for registered nurses and includes a 26% wage increase over the next four years in an effort to attract "hard-to-find and much-needed" registered nurses to 17 Kaiser hospitals in Northern California (Correa, Fresno Bee, 12/1).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.