California ‘Leads the Nation’ in Nursing Shortages
With an average of 500 RNs per 100,000 people, California ranks "dead last" in the nation in the number of registered nurses, according to a recent study by the California Healthcare Association and the Board of Registered Nurses, the San Francisco Business Times reports. Furthermore, the CHA reports that the statewide ratio is "expected to drop." Jan Emerson of the CHA said, "If graduation and migration rates hold, we will have a shortage of 25,000 nurses in California." However, she noted that California "will be the first" in the nation to address nursing ratios through legislation. A 1999 law (A.B. 394) requires hospitals to set nursing ratios by January 2002 (Doherty, San Francisco Business Times, 11/27).
In response to the nursing shortage, the Peninsula Health Care District has given the College of San Mateo a $140,000 grant to enroll an additional 12 students in its nursing program next fall, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Currently, the program admits 36 students into its program each year. The college's nursing advisory committee estimates that San Mateo County needs 15-25 nurses to fill positions at local hospitals. With the grant money, the 12 new students will receive $1,000 each to pay for supplies and books. According to college officials, the health district, comprising Mills, Peninsula and San Mateo County General hospitals, might extend the grant to create more spots for nursing students (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/29).
The nursing ratios law "will only make matters worse," as it will "exacerbate the shortage" of nurses, a Santa Barbara News-Press editorial says. "California will lead the nation when it comes to needing more nurses," the editorial continues, noting that the current ratio of RNs to residents is 27% below the national average. To alleviate the limited campus classroom space and the shortage of nursing instructors that have prompted waiting lists for students to enroll in two-year nursing programs at California state universities and community colleges, the editorial proposes that the schools move some of their nursing academic programs off campus and offer courses online. "Modern medicine is increasingly dependent upon high technology, but nurses continue to be ... where the rubber hits the road. In that regard, California is in danger of losing its grip," the editorial says (Santa Barbara News-Press, 11/27).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.