NURSES: Panel Says State Faces Severe Shortage By 2005
Population growth in California, combined with a surge in demand for "highly educated and skilled" nurses, may "create a nursing shortage in the next decade," according to the head of a state panel. California "ranks last in the nation" in the number of nurses per person, with 566 registered nurses per 100,000 residents, Stockton Record reports. Sarah Keating, leader of the state panel searching for solutions to the "impending shortage," says that "[s]chools will be hard-pressed to train nurses fast enough." The task force predicts that the state will need "90% more nurses by 2005." Adding to the problem, the average age of nurses is the state is 46, so many are nearing retirement.
More Skills Needed
After facing staff cutbacks in the early part of the decade, nurses -- especially those with advanced skills -- are finding themselves in a "plum job market again." However, employers are "increasingly seeking" nurses with bachelor's degrees due in part to changes in state law. About 80% of nurses applying for positions have only associate degrees, reports the Record. Constance Smith, head of the division of San Joaquin Delta College that provides nursing training, said, "What we're seeing now more than anything else is a shift in demand. The nurses they're looking for now need different expertise." At the same time, "vocational nurses are finding it harder to go back to school for more training," because hospitals are not as generous with financial support as they used to be. In addition, according to Kit Costello, president of the California Nurses Association, the has been an exodus of nurses from the field "because of the increased stress as hospitals reduced staff and turned to nursing teams," that relied on nurses' aides and licensed vocational nurses to perform many of the tasks traditionally performed by nurses. Costello said, "I hear a lot of nurses saying the same thing: 'I don't get the joy out of the job that I used to'" (Spence, 4/23).