California Seeks More U.S. Nurses To Combat Personnel Shortage
The growing nursing shortage in California has prompted some hospitals and lawmakers to increase efforts for encouraging more U.S. citizens to become nurses, turning away from efforts to recruit foreign nurses, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Nursing schools in California are grappling with a shortage of classroom space and instructors, as well as low graduation rates. Fifty percent of nursing students either drop out or do not graduate on time, according to the legislative analyst's office.
The shortfall of students has prompted hospitals to hire more foreign nurses, who comprise about 18% of the state's registered nurses. The percentage of newly licensed foreign registered nurses in the U.S. has grown from 5% of all nurses in 1997 to 14% in 2003, according to a study by Pennsylvania State University.
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospitals Association, said hiring foreign nurses is a "Band-Aid on the bigger problem" of the personnel supply. She added, "We as a state and country have to fix the problem by putting enough resources into the education system to produce the nurses we need."
Some medical centers are partnering with colleges to increase the sizes of current nursing schools.
The California Wellness Foundation is encouraging more minorities to consider a career in nursing. The foundation said 51 of California's 58 counties are facing shortages of workers in almost 200 allied health professions.
Despite the domestic efforts, many health care experts contend that both foreign and U.S. nurses are in high demand because of a shortage that is expected to worsen as baby boomers retire and the nursing workforce ages (Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 6/11).