Hospitals, Community Colleges Work To Increase State Nursing Workforce
Enrollment in community colleges statewide has increased continually over the last five years, driven in large part by a growing interest in health sciences, particularly nursing programs, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Students are drawn to the programs because of the potential for high earnings in nursing careers, the steady nature of nursing and a statewide nursing shortage expected to reach 97,500 positions by 2010, according to the Chronicle. Because of high demand for nurses, many of the basic science courses offered at the 69 community colleges that offer associate nursing degrees have waiting lists. As a result, students take about two years to complete basic science requirements before beginning vocational health care programs.
According to some experts, nurses produced by community college nursing degree programs account for 70% of the nursing work force in California, the Chronicle reports. To meet the demand, hospitals are working with community colleges to expand their nursing degree programs.
Hospitals in the state gave a combined $50 million in 2003 to help train nurses at community colleges through student scholarships, faculty hiring and classroom expansions, according to Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association.
For example, two local hospitals gave Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill $40,000 this year to add anatomy and physiology classes, while three hospitals near Napa Valley College pledged $292,500 over the next two years to double the size of the nursing program from 80 to 160 students. Santa Rosa Junior College has received a combined $50,000 from three hospitals to offer weekend and evening nursing classes to train an additional 20 students (Podger, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/21).
The statewide and nationwide nursing shortages and crowding in degree-level nursing programs are compounded by a lack of instructors qualified to train nurses, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Many instructors are getting older and retiring, and school officials say they are not being replaced because younger nurses "find campus life less lucrative" than other work, the Union-Tribune reports.
Lembi Saarmann, associate director of the School of Nursing at San Diego State University, said, "A whole lot of people are going to be retiring in the next 10 years, and we're finding it harder to encourage nurses to go back to school to get their doctorates to teach."
According to Robyn Nelson, chair of the nursing division at California State University-Sacramento, a nursing professor with a doctorate earns about $55,000 at CSU-Sacramento, compared with a starting salary of as much as $95,000 for nurses in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Because of the salary discrepancy, schools including CSU-Sacramento are having problems filling empty staff positions, and some are forced to turn students away from degree programs. However, the Union-Tribune reports that some colleges have been able to fill empty staff positions by taking "innovative" approaches to recruitment, such as hiring working nurses to teach part-time on weekends or evenings (Calbreath, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/25).